BACKGROUND: For older adults, physical activity is vital for maintaining their health and ability to live independently. Home-based programs can help them achieve the recommended exercise frequency. An application for a tablet computer was developed to support older adults in following a personal training program. It featured goal setting, tailoring, progress tracking, and remote feedback.
OBJECTIVE: In line with the Medical Research Council Framework, which prescribes thorough testing before evaluating the efficacy with a randomized controlled trial, the aim of this study was to assess the usability of a tablet-based app that was designed to support older adults in doing exercises at home.
METHODS: A total of 15 older adults, age ranging from 69 to 99 years old, participated in a usability study that utilized a mixed-methods approach. In a laboratory setting, novice users were asked to complete a series of tasks while verbalizing their ongoing thoughts. The tasks ranged from looking up information about exercises and executing them to tailoring a weekly exercise schedule. Performance errors and time-on-task were calculated as proxies of effective and efficient usage. Overall satisfaction was assessed with a posttest interview. All responses were analyzed independently by 2 researchers.
RESULTS: The participants spent 13-85 seconds time-on-task. Moreover, 79% (11/14)-100% (14/14) participants completed the basic tasks with either no help or after having received 1 hint. For expert tasks, they needed a few more hints. During the posttest interview, the participants made 3 times more positive remarks about the app than negative remarks.
CONCLUSIONS: The app that was developed to support older adults in doing exercises at home is usable by the target audience. First-time users were able to perform basic tasks in an effective and efficient manner. In general, they were satisfied with the app. Tasks that were associated with behavior execution and evaluation were performed with ease. Complex tasks such as tailoring a personal training schedule needed more effort. Learning effects, usefulness, and long-term satisfaction will be investigated through longitudinal follow-up studies.