Mobile health programs have become increasingly popular among older adults.

Mobile health programs have become increasingly popular among older adults.

Increasing numbers of older adults are using the Internet. Recent statistics show almost 90 percent of older adults ages 50 – 64 are online, with almost 60 percent of those older than 64 years of age online as well. With such high Internet access and use, mobile health programs have become increasingly popular. However, among the thousands of online applications and mobile tools available to promote physical activity, very few are designed and marketed towards older adults.

Yan Hong, Ph.D., associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, led a team of researchers in the development and testing of iCanFit, a mobile-enabled web application to promote physical activity in older adults with chronic conditions.

According to Hong, “iCanFit is designed to address common barriers to exercise noted by older adults including lack of motivation, difficulty of tracking physical activity, inadequate social support and limited knowledge on how to exercise properly.” The application features “Goal,” an interactive function that allows users to set and track physical activity goals and view progress. The application also has other functions including community resources and healthy tips.

Hong and colleagues tested usability of the app with ten older adults in a computer lab in a senior center, where they were able to identify and implement changes to improve usability and senior friendliness. Next, they had 23 older adults (ages 60-82) use the app at home for two weeks and then interviewed them concerning their experience.

Yan Hong, Ph.D.

Yan Hong, Ph.D.

“Overall, the testing revealed high levels of ease of use and usefulness of the application, and most participants stated they would continue to use the program,” said Hong.

The complete report, “Testing usability and acceptability of a web application to promote physical activity (iCanFit) among older adults” is published in the latest issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, Human Factors.

An efficacy trial of iCanFit is currently underway, and the application will then be further developed to assist a larger population of adults with chronic conditions.

The research team included from the Texas A&M School of Public Health Marcia Ory, Ph.D., Deborah Vollmer Dahlke, Ph.D., S. Camille Peres, Ph.D., Debra Kellstedt, M.P.H., and graduate student Rachel Coughlin; from the Texas A&M Department of Geosciences Daniel Goldberg, Ph.D. and Edgar Hernandez; and from St. Joseph Regional Health Center Jessica Cargill.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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