The use of novel technology to deliver falls prevention exercise to older adults

  • Sarah Howes

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: Active computer gaming (ACG) may be a potentially safe and enjoyable way for older people to participate in exercise. Development of a bespoke system by an interdisciplinary team, and involving older adults throughout its development, may optimise usability and acceptability.
Aims: To develop an ACG system to deliver strength and balance exercises to older people, and to evaluate older adults’ use and perceptions of its safety, usability and acceptability.
Methods: Development of the ACG system was an iterative process by an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and game developers. User-centred design provided invaluable insight into older adults’ requirements and preferences; this supplemented guidance from the literature (including a systematic review of trials using ACG) to optimise usability and acceptability of the ACG system. Results: Prototype 1 was developed for Kinect, and suitable for two viewing mediums, a 21” monitor and the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). Following a single use of each viewing condition, prototype 1 was perceived positively by older adults (n=9). Participants had a strong preference for a screen display compared to using a HMD. Additional instruction and support was frequently required by participants when completing a single use of each study condition. Findings from this phase of user testing, including observations and feedback provided by participants, were used to modify the ACG system. Evaluation of repeated use with prototype 2, used with a 32” monitor, suggested high levels of usability and acceptability in older adults (n=7). The level of additional instruction required tended to reduce with repeated exposure to the ACG system. The level of participation was also influenced by physical health and competing priorities.
Conclusions: Overall findings of this thesis highlighted older people were willing to try novel technologies, both for health benefits and enjoyment. ACG features, including feedback, improved older adults’ motivation to use the system; and, non-gaming features related to additional support were facilitators of use of the system. This thesis reflects on knowledge gained through collaborative working within a team of clinicians and developers, in terms of communication and organisation to ensure mutual understanding, management of tasks and resolution of usability issues.
Date of AwardMay 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorKaty Pedlow (Supervisor), Darryl Charles (Supervisor) & Suzanne Mc Donough (Supervisor)


  • Virtual Reality
  • Balance
  • Ageing

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