Evaluation of a blended physical activity intervention for older adults: Mixed methods study

Sumit Mehra, Jantine Van Den Helder, Bart Visser, Raoul H.H. Engelbert, Peter J.M. Weijs, Ben J.A. Kröse

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Background: Physical activity can prolong the ability of older adults to live independently. Home-based exercises can help achieve the recommended physical activity levels. A blended intervention was developed to support older adults in performing home-based exercises. A tablet and a personal coach were provided to facilitate the self-regulation of exercise behavior. Objective: In line with the Medical Research Council framework, this study aimed to carry out process evaluation of a blended intervention. The objectives were (1) to assess the long-term usability of the tablet adopted in the blended intervention and (2) to explore how the tablet, in conjunction with a personal coach, supported older adults in performing home-based exercises. Methods: The process evaluation was conducted with a mixed-methods approach. At baseline, older adults participating in the blended intervention were asked to fill out a questionnaire about their general experience with information and communication technology (ICT) devices and rate their own skill level. After 6 months, participants filled out the Usefulness, Satisfaction, and Ease of use (USE) questionnaire to assess the usefulness, satisfaction, and ease of use of the tablet. With a random selection of participants, in-depth interviews were held to explore how the tablet and coach supported the self-regulation. The interviews were double coded and analyzed with the directed content analysis method. Results: At baseline, 29% (65/224) of participants who started the intervention (mean age 72 years) filled out the ICT survey and 36% (37/103) of participants who used the tablet for 6 months (mean age 71 years) filled out the USE questionnaire. Furthermore, with 17% (18/103) of participants (mean age 73 years), follow-up interviews were held. The results of the baseline questionnaire showed that the large majority of participants already had experience with a tablet, used it regularly, and reported being skillful in operating ICT devices. After 6 months of use, the participants rated the usefulness, satisfaction, and ease of use of the tablet on average as 3.8, 4.2, and 4.1, respectively, on a 5-point scale. The analysis of the interviews showed that the participants felt that the tablet supported action planning, behavior execution, and self-monitoring. On the other hand, especially during the first few months, the personal coach added value during the goal setting, behavior execution, and evaluation phases of self-regulation. Conclusions: The results of the process evaluation showed that older adults who participated in the study were positive about the blended intervention that was designed to support them in performing home-based exercises. Participants reported that the tablet helped them to perform the exercises better, more frequently, and safely. It supported them in various phases of self-regulation. The availability of a personal coach was nevertheless crucial. To support physical activity in older adults, a blended approach is promising.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere16380
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • Activities of daily living
  • Aged
  • Evaluation
  • Exercise
  • Frail elderly
  • Health behavior
  • Mobile devices
  • Tablet computers
  • Telemedicine
  • Usability testing

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