Planning and optimising a digital intervention to protect older adults’ cognitive health

Rosie Essery*, Sebastien Pollet, Kirsten A. Smith, Fiona Mowbray, Joanna Slodkowska-Barabasz, James Denison-Day, Victoria Hayter, Katherine Bradbury, Elisabeth Grey, Max J. Western, Alexander Milton, Cheryl Hunter, Anne E Ferrey, Andre Matthias Müller, Beth Stuart, Nanette Mutrie, Simon J Griffin, Tony Kendrick, Helen Brooker, Bernard GudginRosemary Phillips, Tom Stokes, John Niven, Paul Little, Lucy Yardley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Background: By 2050 worldwide dementia prevalence is expected to triple, rising to 152 million. Affordable, scalable interventions are required to support protective behaviours such as physical activity, cognitive training and healthy eating. This paper outlines the development of ‘Active Brains’: a multi-domain digital behaviour change intervention to reduce cognitive decline amongst older adults, and key findings arising from this process.

Methods: A theory-, evidence- and person-based approach to intervention development was undertaken. Scoping reviews and behavioural analysis contributed to intervention planning. Optimisation involved qualitative interviews with 52 older adults with higher and lower cognitive performance scores. Data were analysed thematically and informed changes.

Results: The development process synthesised findings from planning and optimisation activities. Scoping reviews and qualitative interviews suggested that the same intervention content should be suitable for individuals with higher and lower cognitive performance. Qualitative findings revealed that maintaining independence and enjoyment motivated engagement in intervention-targeted behaviours, whereas managing ill health was a potential barrier. Social support for engaging in such activities could provide motivation, but was not desirable for all. These findings informed development of highly acceptable intervention content and functionality for target users.

Conclusions: A digitally-delivered intervention with minimal support appears acceptable and potentially engaging to older adults with higher and lower levels of cognitive performance. As well as informing our own intervention, the insights obtained through our development process may be useful for others working with, and developing interventions for, older adults and/or those with cognitive impairment.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Publication statusSubmitted - 28 Jan 2021

Structured keywords

  • Physical and Mental Health


  • cognitive-health
  • behaviour-change
  • physical activity
  • dementia
  • prevention
  • digital-intervention


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