older people

Symposium - Role of activity monitors in adopting an active and healthy lifestyle

Symposium at UK's Open University's campus in Milton Keynes 

Over the last two years, a team of researchers at The Open University (OU) has been investigating the role of activity monitors in socialisation and in improving the wellbeing of people aged over 55 years, of carers, and of people being cared for. Activity monitoring technologies such as those from Fitbit, Garmin and Samsung help to track activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep.  

In the digital health wearables event on 16 January 2018, we will showcase the results of this two-year research programme funded by Sir Halley Stewart Trust and the ESRC Impact Acceleration Award. In addition, speakers from public health and industry, and users of these technologies will discuss their views and future directions these technologies and similar digital health wearables will take in supporting active and healthy ageing, in caring, and in self-monitoring of health.  

Research programme website: http://www.shaileyminocha.info/digital-health-wearables/ 

Agenda of the Symposium

Opening keynote by Rohit Ail, Samsung UK - Health Innovation and European Union's ActiveAge Project

Presentations by the OU team, users/participants of our research programme (Bob Strudwick and Phil Warburton of Age UK Milton Keynes) and Trudy Hosker, Public Health Practitioner, Public Health, People Directorate, Milton Keynes Council

Closing keynote by Tina Hurst, Active Insights

Project team

Academics: Dr. Duncan Banks (OU), Dr. Kate Hamblin (Oxford University) Dr. Caroline Holland (OU), Dr. George Leeson (Oxford University) Ms. Catherine McNulty (OU), Professor Shailey Minocha (OU) and Dr. Ana-Despina Tudor (OU)

Collaborators: Age UK MK (Jane Palmer, Bob Strudwick and Phil Warburton), Carers MK (Sue Bowering and Robert Benn) and Samsung UK and the ActivAge project (Rohit Ail, Ahmad Bangesh and Qian Shen)

Research Managers: Louise Thomas (OU) and Katia Padvalkava (Oxford University)

Further Information

If you would like to know more about the symposium or receive a summary of the symposium's proceedings, please contact us via the comments on this blog-post


Survey on Online Photo-sharing by People aged over 60 years who live in the UK


About the project

Our Sir Halley Stewart Trust funded project addresses the interlinked issues of the process of becoming older, wellbeing, loneliness and social isolation, and taking photographs and sharing them online through applications such as email and social media (e.g. Flickr, Facebook, Instagram).

Details of the project are here

The Survey

If you are aged 60 years or over and live in the UK, we would like to know about your experiences of sharing photographs online via applications such as email or social media (e.g. Google Photos, Flickr, Instagram). 

The survey is at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/photo-sharing-social-media-by-people-over-60-years  or http://bit.ly/2B9FcxJ (short link)

The survey will take 8-10 minutes to complete.

The research design of this project has been approved by The Open University's Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC/2017/2498/Minocha).

Contact details

If you have any queries about the survey or if you would like to reach us on email, please contact Dr Sarah Quinton of Oxford Brookes University (sequinton@brookes.ac.uk) or Professor Shailey Minocha of The Open University, UK (shailey.minocha@open.ac.uk). 

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.

Call for participation of manufacturers: Activity trackers for older people, carers and people being cared for

Photos from our workshop with carers and manufacturers on 16 June 2017 (courtesy: Dr Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK)


The Open University (OU), UK, in collaboration with Oxford University, Age UK Milton Keynes and Carers Milton Keynes, is involved in a research programme related to digital health wearables for older people, carers, and people being cared for. 

The research programme consists of two projects. 

  • The first project was funded by Sir Halley Stewart Trust and a poster based on the research carried out on one of the strands of this project is here
  • The details of the second ESRC-funded project in this research programme are in this pdf. This project is focussed on knowledge exchange with a variety of stakeholders including manufacturers of digital health wearables.

Workshop on 16th June 2017

As a part of the ESRC-funded project, we organised a multi-stakeholder workshop with 16 attendees involving the project team, carers and manufacturers on 16th June from 10 am to 13:15 at the OU's campus in Milton Keynes.

The aim of this workshop was to link up the requirements and expectations of older people, carers and people that we have collected so far in the Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded project, with manufacturers and policy makers in a multi-way knowledge exchange. Our (the research team's) objective  is to influence the usability and service design of digital wearables for older people, carers and people being cared for based on the evidence that we have consolidated in our empirical research

Series of multi-stakeholder knowledge exchange workshops

This workshop is a part of series of workshops that we will be organising on this project until the end of this year. 

Are you a manufacturer of digital health wearables?

If you are a manufacturer of digital health wearables and would like to participate in one of our workshops, please do contact us by email: digital.health.wearables@gmail.com or shailey.minocha@open.ac.uk

Activity trackers and people aged over 55 years

Digital Health Wearables workshop on 14 October 2016,  pictures courtesy Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr. Duncan Banks

Digital Health Wearables workshop on 14 October 2016, pictures courtesy Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr. Duncan Banks

We organised the fourth workshop of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust funded Digital Health Wearables project at The Open University on 14 October 2016.

As discussed in our blog-post dated 9 October 2016, we are recording the experiences of 21 participants who are using activity trackers as a part of this project. The activity trackers are from Fitbit (e.g. Fitbit Alta, Fitbit HR), Microsoft (Band 1 and 2), and Misfit Shine. The workshop-discussions since June 2016 have uncovered a number of challenges people over 55 years experience with using the activity-trackers - from opening the packaging, accessing the instructions/manuals online, and to discovering the features of the device. 

We are investigating how the behaviours of our participants is changing – whether there is an increase in their activity such as walking or gardening, lifestyle changes, attitudes towards food/diet, and so on. How do they do how much of physical activity (and number of steps) is optimal for them (age; medical conditions, if any; etc.)? Does an increase in physical activity help towards the loneliness that people experience in later life? In addition, we have been eliciting their perceptions about sharing of the data with family, friends, carers and medical professionals. 

As discussed in this news item of our project, the wider implications of this project are in determining how digital health wearables can be used for self-monitoring and self-management of health by older people, and for remote-monitoring of specific conditions such as Parkinson's. 

Use of data from fitness trackers in medical consultations

Are you a doctor or healthcare provider? Do you come across data from fitness trackers such as from Fitbit etc. in your consultations?

Activity data on the dashboard in the iPad App of the wearable (pictures courtesy: Dr Duncan Banks, The Open University, UK)

About the project

Our research project at UK’s Open University and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes aims to investigate whether behaviour changes in people aged over 55 years through the use of wearable activity-tracking technologies. Example technologies include those from Fitbit, Jawbone, or smart watches from Apple or Samsung.

We have launched a survey that is aimed at medical professionals to explore whether they use the data from these devices for diagnosis and intervention. Most importantly, do medical professionals use data from these devices to determine the behaviour or lifestyle changes in people aged over 55 years?  

Call for participation in the survey

As a medical professional we would like to know about your perceptions of using digital health wearables in medical consultations, diagnosis and treatment. Our focus is on wearable fitness devices which track daily fitness levels (e.g. wrist-bands from Fitbit or Jawbone, or smart watches from Apple or Samsung). 

As a part of the Sir Halley Stewart Trust-funded Digital health wearables project at The Open University, UK and in collaboration with Age UK Milton Keynes, we are running a survey: please visit https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/role-in-medical-consultations or http://bit.ly/2cPr852 to participate in this survey. It will take 3-5 minutes to complete it.

The project's research design has been approved by University's Human Research Ethics Committee. If you have any queries about the project or this survey, please contact Professor Shailey Minocha, The Open University: shailey.minocha@open.ac.uk 

Loneliness research presentation

Shailey will be presenting at an event organised by the Campaign to End Loneliness on 14th April 2016. The outline of the presentation is as follows:

In association with Age UK Milton Keynes, we have conducted research to investigate the conditions that lead to social isolation and loneliness among older people (55 years and above) in Milton Keynes, and to recommend possible strategies and solutions to prevent and mitigate isolation. The project was funded by the Milton Keynes Council and commissioned by the Senior Joint Commissioner, Adult Community Services. The research has involved a review of academic and policy literature on social isolation and loneliness, and an information gathering exercise that included expert workshops, individual and group interviews, and site visits. This talk will be based on the project's report and will discuss several case studies of older people and interventions for social isolation and loneliness within Milton Keynes. We hope that the recommendations and the resources from our report and in this talk would be useful for other communities, towns and cities, who may also be facing the challenges of supporting an ageing population.

Project members: Jane Palmer, Age UK Milton Keynes and Shailey Minocha, Duncan Banks, Caroline Holland and Catherine McNulty of The Open University.

Associated publications: Please see the list in Open University's Research Repository.

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: https://flic.kr/p/mw795j

Picture courtesy: https://flic.kr/p/mw795j

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. 

A daily photo journal that helps to address social isolation

Rebecca Jones of The Open University along with some of the other attendees at the event

Rebecca Jones of The Open University along with some of the other attendees at the event

As a part of the Centre for Policy on Ageing (CPA) and Centre for Ageing and Biographical Studies (CABS) seminar series, The Representation of Older People in Ageing Research, a seminar 'Social Media and Research in Ageing' took place on 30th October 2015 at The Open University's London office (1-11 Hawley Crescent, Camden, London, NW1 8NP).

Taking the example of an online photo journal called blipfoto which encourages users to document their life with just one photo each day, Shailey discussed how online social interactions influence the lives of people aged over 65 years, the challenges that they face, and the concerns that they have about being online.

The presentation is available here in Open University's Research Repository. The live blogging of the talk is available in Rebecca Jones' blog.