Professor Chen Receives Grant for Study that Encourages Older Adults to Exercise

March 6, 2018

What gets seniors moving to stay healthy? Informatics Professor Yunan Chen is exploring this question after receiving a Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL) grant. The funding will help Chen study how older adults can use smartwatches for exercise tracking. In particular, the smartwatch app will help seniors with diverse health conditions create personalized exercises goals each day, so Chen can investigate the impact of adaptive exercise tracking.

In the study proposal, “Promoting Physical Exercise in Older Adults through Adaptive Goal Setting,” Chen notes that self-tracking technologies “are not well suited to seniors’ exercise goals and their specific health conditions.” For example, the general guideline of 10,000 steps per day might not be realistic or even healthy for some elderly users. “Seniors would likely benefit from more interventions that guide them to find the best amount of exercise based on their real capabilities.”

Consequently, Chen is conducting a pilot intervention study to better promote exercise in older adults by establishing achievable goals. The two-phase study will first explore usability, focusing on how best to design the smartwatch app interface for seniors. During the second phase, seniors will use the app for two weeks. Half of the participants will be in the intervention group, which will receive daily adaptive exercise goals based on the data collected. The other half, the control group, will have predetermined, fixed goals. At the end of the study, Chen will analyze the experiences of the two groups and compare their exercise amounts.

The results should help develop a better understanding of self-tracking technologies for seniors’ health management. Chen eventually hopes to conduct the study on a much larger scale to “generate insights to inform the design of healthcare technology for older adults.”

 Shani Murray