/ active aging

Gamification encourages sedentary seniors to engage and get active

Total daily activity decreases with age, especially after retirement. Health care experts acknowledge that older people tend to spend most of their time sitting, and some avoid moving once they have reached retirement age, especially avoiding big tasks. Other factors, such as depression, chronic conditions such as arthritis and heart disease, and barriers to mobility all contribute to a lack of activity among people above retirement age - completing the task becomes a chore.

Active Silver Life Programme helps seniors beat procrastination by employing activity challenges

To combat the damaging effects of a sedentary lifestyle and encourage activity in the elderly population, we have established the Active Silver Life Programme (ASL), a socio-technological endeavour that seeks to increase the social, physical, and cognitive activity levels of people beyond retirement age.

What makes this programme special is that we apply gamification strategies to motivate older adults to overcome procrastination by participating in an activity that is enjoyable, fun, and rewarding.

The programme is made up of three pillars:

  • Silver Life Coach (SLC) working with an elder
  • ASL Calendar for activity planning and tracking
  • Gamification framework (frame activity challenges which contain game elements)

Beating Procrastination: what does the SLC do?

The Silver Life Coach is the point of contact for the elder person (EP) and helps stop procrastination by user engagement:

  • The coach holds an initial consultation with the EP to get to know them, learn his or her current habits, set goals, and select suitable activities.
  • The SLC then meets twice yearly in person with the EP and is available the rest of the time through email or a pre-defined social media communication channel such as WhatsApp or Messenger.
  • The SLC also stays in contact with the EP by using the ASL Calendar web application for activity planning, tracking, and feedback through the comment function built into the application.

What is the ASL Calendar?

Social, physical, and cognitive activity planning and tracking is carried out by use of the ASL Calendar, a web application that allows the EP to schedule meetings, medical visits, and medications in a normal calendar view.

The calendar allows the SLC to also share activity instructions without scheduling; for example, when the EP does not have a set time to play a cognitive game but must complete it within a specific day.

ASL Calendar / Client view
Image: ASL Calendar / Client view

What is a Gamification Framework?

Gamification can be best described as the application of the elements of game playing such as scores, competition, and rules of play to an activity in order to increase engagement and participation.

Gamification is increasingly being used to motivate employees to complete routine but necessary small tasks, or to attain a goal. Gamification in health care is now being used as a strong motivator in encouraging patients to stick to healthy habits.

We have adopted gamification for the Active Silver Life Programme by employing the framework for an online team game about gardening. The game’s goal is to encourage activity planned in the Calendar through the acquisition of points. These points are needed for the daily game play and can be also traded in for rewards or donated to a noble cause.

We feel that this innovative solution encourages participants by providing continuous feedback and allowing people to view their progress toward a chosen goal, as well as providing time management skills while increasing engagement.

Why gamification for the elderly?

Experts agree that social, physical, and cognitive activities contribute to an older adult’s wellbeing and quality of life. Activity improves physical function and alleviates symptoms of depression. The problem is getting the person to engage and participate.

Motivation is one of the biggest hurdles, along with procrastination, indifference, and health issues. Gamification provides fun, engagement, and reward for performing activities designed to stimulate social, cognitive and physical activity.

People need to feel that there is a point to making a task meaningful, motivating and engaging (in game contexts this is known as term engagement). Thus, gamification provides instant feedback and gratification in much the same way as Candy Crush or Farmville does.

We believe that the hurdles be overcome through our gamified motivation system, where one must define objectives and delineate target behaviour.

How can Game for Team meaningfully frame activity challenges?

Game for Team, our social game and gamification platform, is a gamified system designed for supporting collaboration and motivating daily interaction. The game design employs gardening tasks to create interdependence and motivate cooperation in order to achieve a common goal.

Game for Team (ASL version)
Image: Game for Team (ASL version)

Five teams of four participants will play on the same board. Individual results depend on team performance, and teams are successful when each player meets his or her daily activity plan. This also motivates players to follow their social activity plans and to socialize with other players.

Points collected in the game can be spent in Game for Team shop. Items such as avatars, special field designs that can be purchased for the user or as a gift for another player, and virtual greeting cards that users can send to each other can be set by the SLC or other organisers.

Game for Team quarterly publishes a list of noble causes to support. Players can spend their earned credits beyond their own interests and limitations (for example they can support the renovation of a school or the operation of an animal shelter). Each credit that is spent on a cause will be converted to a monetary contribution.

How do Points work?

Players can earn points by meeting their activity plan. A player can receive 0-4 points a day. The number points collected determines how many garden building blocks a player can use on a given day. The team that builds their garden first receives the number of points on the board, and these points are distributed equally among players.

Players can spend their points in Game for Team shop. Purchasable items are set by the organizer (the SLC or other person), and feature avatars, special field designs that can also be purchased as gifts to other players, and virtual greeting cards that players can send to each other. Points can be also spent on Game for Team published noble goals.

Active Silver Life Programme is worked out and continuously improved by SOFTIC. Game for Team (ASL version) gamification framework and ASL Calendar. development is realized in INCARE Project (Integrated Solution for Innovative Elderly Care), that is partially funded by the European Commission under AAL JP Programme (Active Assisted Living Joint Programme).

Topic photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash