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Currently submitted to: JMIR mHealth and uHealth

Date Submitted: Jul 13, 2020
Open Peer Review Period: Jul 13, 2020 - Aug 11, 2020
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What makes older adults use their wearable activity trackers longer?: A qualitative study on habit formation

  • Wei Peng; 
  • Lin Li; 
  • Anastasia Kononova; 
  • Shelia Cotten; 
  • Kendra Kamp; 
  • Marie Bowen; 



Wearable activity trackers (WATs) are popular devices used to motivate behavior change. WATs are especially beneficial to encourage light physical activity, such as walking, which is an ideal behavior for older adults or individuals who cannot be physically active at moderate and vigorous levels. A common problem is that people do not continue to use these wearable devices, with initial behavioral change gains eroding as people disengage. However, some people do continue to use WATs to facilitate behavior change and maintain long-term engagement with the changed behavior.


The current study aims to uncover the mechanism underlying long-term continued use of wearable devices among older adults through the theoretical lens of habit formation.


In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 participants who were 65 or older and had used WATs for more than six months to understand their experiences and strategies employed to support continued use.


Thematic analysis of the data revealed eight themes related to habit formation, including aspects in initiation and goal setting, uses of contextual cues, action planning, and coping planning.


The results of this qualitative study of long-term users of WAT suggests specific ways to enhance long-term habit formation among older adults. These best practices by long-term users can inform future design of technology-based behavior interventions.


Please cite as:

Peng W, Li L, Kononova A, Cotten S, Kamp K, Bowen M

What makes older adults use their wearable activity trackers longer?: A qualitative study on habit formation

JMIR Preprints. 13/07/2020:22488

DOI: 10.2196/preprints.22488


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