Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over

Photos from our workshops taken by Dr. Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK

Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project

In this Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project on digital health wearables for people aged over 55 years (May 2016 - July 2017) and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes (MK) and Carers MK, our aim was to investigate whether and how wearable activity-tracking technologies can acceptably contribute towards self-monitoring of activity and health by people aged over 55.

Example technologies include trackers from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung, and smart watches. Typically, these devices record steps walked, sleep patterns, calories expended and heart rate.

Through our empirical investigations, we have identified:

  • challenges for adoption of these technologies;
  • the need to design for age-related impairments (e.g. vision, hearing, memory, dexterity);
  • concerns related to data management, security and data privacy;
  • positive behavioural changes of using activity monitoring devices, and, in general;
  • the role of digital health wearables in caring, self-management of health, post-operative monitoring of mobility, and for monitoring movement and locations in conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.


A preliminary and brief report of the project is now available: pdf report

Citing this report: Minocha, Shailey; Banks, Duncan; Holland, Caroline; McNulty, Catherine and Tudor, Ana-Despina (2017). Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over. Report submitted to Sir Halley Stewart Trust, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Trust who funded this project.

Project Team

Dr Duncan Banks,  Dr Caroline Holland, Ms Catherine McNulty, Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor, The Open University

Mrs Jane Palmer, Age UK Milton Keynes

Mrs Sue Bowering and Mr Robert Benn, Carers Milton Keynes 

ESRC Impact Acceleration Award

Ageing population, retaining independence of older people, support to carers, and using internet-enabled technologies to transform healthcare services are some of the national concerns. We are now involved in a multi-way knowledge-exchange (KE) programme (April 2017 - January 2018) through an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Award to set up dialogues with/between key stakeholders including manufacturers for improving the design of digital health wearables for older users, carers and medical professionals.

Award from Sir Halley Stewart Trust

Our project 'Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over' has received funding from Sir Halley Stewart Trust

Picture courtesy:

Picture courtesy:

The project will investigate the challenges that the older people may experience: being adverse to these technologies as they may highlight their lifestyle; not having the digital skills to make an optimal use of these devices; or not being comfortable about sharing the data with others. 

We will investigate the ethical issues: whether the data that is collected is ethically used by the family to remotely monitor their loved ones and to pick up any health care concerns; and how this data might be used by medical professionals to facilitate timely clinical interventions. 

We will evaluate how usable these devices are to promote behaviour change, or influence the likelihood of long-term adoption: challenges associated with making sense of the data that is provided by these devices; does the data encourage people to be more active, exercise more, eat more healthily, or to quit smoking or drinking? 

Project team: Jane Palmer, Age UK Milton Keynes, Shailey Minocha, Duncan Banks, Caroline Holland, Catherine McNulty and Alice Peasgood from The Open University.