A Game-Based, Physical Activity Coaching Application for Older Adults: Design Approach and User Experience in Daily Life

Monique Tabak*, Frederiek de Vette, Hylke van Dijk, Miriam Vollenbroek-Hutten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: In this article, we describe the design approach of a game-based, mobile coaching application for older adults (65-75 years) that aimed to stimulate physical activity (PA) in daily life. We evaluated older adults' experiences using this application compared with a standard coaching application in terms of engagement, motivation to be physically active, and in relation to the applied design features.

Development and Design: An iterative design approach was followed to develop the game-based coaching application, called WordFit. Step count data (FitBit) were used for the crossword-inspired game. The standard coaching application (the ActivityCoach) displayed FitBit data.

Materials and Methods: Participants were asked to use the ActivityCoach for 1 week first and then use WordFit for up to 3 weeks. Engagement was determined by logging actual use and motivation for PA by a daily in-app motivation question and step count data. Afterward, a semistructured interview was conducted.

Results: Twenty older adults participated (71.0 ± 5.0 years). Of these, 16/20 actively used the ActivityCoach (13.1 ± 10.0 days) and 8/20 used WordFit (14.8 ± 9.5 days). For the latter, mean PA before WordFit use was 5852 ± 3652 steps/day, while mean PA using WordFit was 7236 ± 3335 steps/day. The interviews (n = 12) showed that step data and feedback on performance through the ActivityCoach/FitBit were prominent motivators for PA. WordFit was generally played as a stand-alone brain trainer. Cognitive challenge, in-game challenges, and challenges through emergent gameplay were important for engagement to use the game. Older adults did not play WordFit together.

Discussion: WordFit was not seen as a tool to help improve PA behavior. Enjoyment of the game concept could be improved by providing older adults with new and nontraditional gaming concepts before assessing game preferences. Follow-up studies should be conducted in a target group that is known for low adherence rates and that can benefit from the intervention provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-226
Number of pages12
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number3
Early online date13 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2020


  • Engagement
  • Mobile gaming
  • Motivation
  • Older adults
  • Persuasive coaching
  • Physical activity
  • 22/2 OA procedure


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