Event Abstract

The Design and Usability Testing of a mHealth Application for Supporting Self-Regulation of Exercising Older Adults

  • 1 Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands

Rationale: Physical activity is vital to a healthy life. Not only can it lower the risk of various diseases, but older adults can also delay the onset of functional impairments. This allows older adults to live for a longer time independently and increases the quality of life. For this reason community based programs like the Dutch ‘Exercise for Seniors’ offer weekly classes that allow older adults to exercise in groups under guidance of an instructor. However, exercising once a week is not sufficient to attain health benefits. To achieve the recommended intensity a home-based exercise program could prove an useful addition to a community based program: in the convenience of their home older adults can continue the exercises they have learnt during the weekly community classes. A previous focus-group study showed that the MBvO-participants believed additional home exercises would be useful, but also had worries about the safety, self-efficacy and adherence to such an intervention. The authors conceived a blended approach would increase the chances of success. Aims: The aim of this study was to determine the usability of an app that was designed to support older adults in doing exercises safely and persistently at home. Methodology: An app for a tablet was developed to support the self-regulation by implementing goal setting, action planning, graded tasks, prompts, remote- and self-monitoring and feedback amongst other behavior change techniques. It featured for instance 48 instructional videos that demonstrated exercises that were designed by human movement scientists. With a wizard a tailored exercise program could be drawn up in line with personal goals. Furthermore, users could track the progress and evaluate exercises. This could be remotely monitored by a coach with whom users can video call for guidance. To ascertain the app was sufficiently user-friendly 15 older adults, ranging from 69 to 99 years old, were asked to perform 11 tasks in a usability lab. The participants were instructed to think aloud and after completing the tasks they were interviewed briefly about their general impressions. Analysis: The task-completion time and type of errors were determined on basis of recordings. Furthermore, the comments made during the task (think-aloud protocol) and exit interviewed were valuated. All analysis were done independently by two researchers to increase the objectivity. Results and conclusions: The results from the usability study indicate that the app appears to be sufficient user-friendly. The vast majority of the users could complete the assigned tasks within reasonable limits: on average within a minute, with occasionally one or two hints. The authors found this to be satisfactory. The majority of the users, ranging from 69 to 99 years old, had no prior experience with tablets. It can be presumed that their ability to operate the app will increase with time. Furthermore, being able to get support from a coach is part of the envisioned blended intervention. Planned follow up studies will determine the long-term user experience and if the intervention leads to measurable health benefits by supporting the self-regulation of older adults.


This work is part of the research projects MOTO-B (funded by NWO, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, grant number 023.006.013) and VITAMINE (funded by the AUAS program Urban Vitality).


[1] Fried, L. P., Tangen, C. M., Walston, J., Newman, A. B., Hirsch, C., Gottdiener, J., ... & McBurnie, M. A. (2001). Frailty in older adults evidence for a phenotype. The journals of gerontology series A: biological sciences and medical sciences, 56(3), M146-M157.

[2] Mehra S, Dadema T, Kröse BJA, Visser B, Engelbert RHH, Van Den Helder J and Weijs PJM (2016) Attitudes of Older Adults in a Group-Based Exercise Program Toward a Blended Intervention; A Focus-Group Study. Front. Psychol. 7:1827. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01827

Keywords: older adults, Exercise, physical activity, Persuasive Technology, Self-regulation, Behaviour change techniques, usability testing, mHealth

Conference: 3rd UCL Centre for Behaviour Change Digital Health Conference 2017: Harnessing digital technology for behaviour change, London, United Kingdom, 22 Feb - 23 Feb, 2017.

Presentation Type: Research abstract

Topic: Digital Health

Citation: Mehra S, Helder JV, Dadema T, Cila N, Visser B, Engelbert RH, Weijs PJ and Krose B (2017). The Design and Usability Testing of a mHealth Application for Supporting Self-Regulation of Exercising Older Adults. Front. Public Health. Conference Abstract: 3rd UCL Centre for Behaviour Change Digital Health Conference 2017: Harnessing digital technology for behaviour change. doi: 10.3389/conf.FPUBH.2017.03.00002

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Received: 22 Feb 2017; Published Online: 22 Feb 2017.

* Correspondence: Mr. Sumit Mehra, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands, s.mehra@hva.nl

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