Avoiding God’s waiting room: Lessons from the lived experiences of older people who use technology to support physical activity
Background: Digital technologies provide new opportunities to promote, incentivise and support physical activity for healthy ageing, but their potential is yet to be fully realised. There is mixed information about older people’s capacity to use new technologies to support physical activity and about how it can benefit them.
Aims: To explore the characteristics and influences of older people’s ‘successful’ uses of technology to support physical activity.
Methods: We conducted narrative interviews with 17 purposively sampled people aged 70+ who, in a previous survey, reported using technology to support physical activity. We sought to identify transferable lessons from their experiences and to explain how these experiences were shaped by contextual factors, including ageing and the COVID-19 pandemic. Data was analysed inductively and deductively.
Results: Interviewees perceived technology as a facilitator and motivator for physical activity, describing multiple benefits. Many disparaged their technical skills yet used technology creatively to access and enhance physical activity. They were driven by philosophies of active living which underpinned their refusal to “sit in God’s waiting room”. Most reported navigating challenges associated with ageing in a discriminatory society, compounded by COVID-19 impacts. Technology use was influenced by social and health relationships. We identified four ‘lessons’: 1. Embrace technology, 2. Find your thing, 3. Be adaptive and 4. Resist ‘being old’.
Conclusions: Older people’s use of technology to support physical activity may be encouraged by leveraging trusted social and health relationships to model and promote technology-supported physical activity, and strengthening the value proposition of technology via co-design.