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User-centred design of an active computer gaming system for strength and balance exercises for older adults

Sarah C. Howes (School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, UK)
Darryl Charles (School of Computing, Ulster University, Belfast, UK)
Katy Pedlow (School of Health Sciences, Centre for Health and Rehabilitation Technologies, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, UK)
Iseult Wilson (School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, UK)
Dominic Holmes (School of Computing, Ulster University, Belfast, UK)
Suzanne McDonough (School of Health Sciences, Ulster University, Newtownabbey, UK)

Journal of Enabling Technologies

ISSN: 2398-6263

Article publication date: 16 August 2019

Issue publication date: 19 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Active computer gaming (ACG) is a way for older people to participate in strength and balance exercise. Involving older adults in the development of a bespoke ACG system may optimise its usability and acceptability. The purpose of this paper is to employ user-centred design to develop an ACG system to deliver strength and balance exercises, and to explore its safety, usability and acceptability in older adults.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper describes user involvement from an early stage, and its influence on the development of the system to deliver strength and balance exercise suitable for display on a flat screen or using an Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headset. It describes user testing of this ACG system in older adults.

Findings

Service users were involved at two points in the development process. Their feedback was used to modify the ACG system prior to user testing of a prototype of the ACG system by n=9 older adults. Results indicated the safety, usability and acceptability of the system, with a strong preference for the screen display.

Research limitations/implications

The sample size for user testing was small; however, it is considered to have provided sufficient information to inform the further development of the system.

Practical implications

Findings from user testing were used to modify the ACG system. This paper identified that future research could explore the influence of repeated use on the usability and acceptability of ACG in older adults.

Originality/value

There is limited information on the usability and acceptability VR headsets in this population.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This project was completed as a part of a PhD funded by the Department of Employment and Learning Northern Ireland. The team would like to thank Professor Leigh Hale and Associate Professor Debra Waters from the University of Otago for sharing their expertise and advice in the development of the study protocol. They would like to thank Geoffrey Chaponneau for his contribution to the development of the system during his placement. Sincerest thanks are also sent to the managers, staff and day centre users at the Age NI centres who were involved in the study.

Citation

Howes, S.C., Charles, D., Pedlow, K., Wilson, I., Holmes, D. and McDonough, S. (2019), "User-centred design of an active computer gaming system for strength and balance exercises for older adults", Journal of Enabling Technologies, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 101-111. https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-12-2018-0057

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited