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An exploration of seniors’ motivation to use mobile brain-exercise software

Donal O’Brien, R. Benjamin Knapp, Oonagh Thompson, David Craig, Suzanne Barrett

Gerontechnology 2013; 11(3):436-444 doi:


This article reports on the development of an iPhone-based brain-exercise tool for seniors involving a series of focus groups (FGs) and field trials (FTs). Four FGs with 34 participants were conducted aimed at understanding the underlying motivational and de-motivational factors influencing seniors’ engagement with mobile brain-exercise software. As part of the FGs, participants had approximately 40 minutes hands-on experience with commercially available brain-exercise software. A content analysis was conducted on the data resulting in a ranking of 19 motivational factors, of which the top three were challenge, usefulness and familiarity and 15 de-motivational factors, of which the top-three were usability issues, poor communication and games that were too fast.  Findings were used to inform the design of three prototype brain-exercise games for the iPhone contained within one overall application, named Brain jog. Subsequently, two FTs were conducted using Brain jog to investigate the part that time exposure has to play in shaping the factors influencing engagement. New factors arose with respect to the initial FGs including the motivational factor feedback and the de-motivational factor boring. The results of this research provide valuable guidelines for the design and evaluation of mobile brain-exercise software for seniors.
Keywords: motivation; brain-training; user-centred design; dementia prevention

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Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology