by: Maria Fuertes
With the emergence of certain augmented reality (AR) games, such as Pokémon GO and Zombies, Run!, came a surge of fitness increase in populations of the generations X and Y. These apps specifically targeted Millennials and Gen X because they grew up being more comfortable with technology than previous generations. This has left a gap in the market regarding older adults that needs to be addressed. I propose a fitness-oriented app that uses AR technology specifically for older adults.
The Pokémon GO app elicited feelings of nostalgia for Millennials because the Pokémon franchise began in 1996 with the release of Pokémon Red and Blue. The franchise has since released a TV show (1997- present), multiple movies, and multiple video games for portable consoles. Pokémon had surrounded the Millennial generation for most of their lives, and thus Pokémon GO became a huge success shortly after its launch. The app follows a similar concept to the games except it uses AR technology to promote fitness. It forces its users to go outside in order to fully be able to experience the app. The user simply goes outside and tries to find Pokémon to catch, train, and use to win tournaments. This app was brilliantly launched in the summer of 2016 and allowed uses who attend school to play. This app was a brilliant idea; however, it fails to meet the needs of users that are part of the Baby Boomer or Silent generations. This is because in order to capture a Pokémon, you must quickly tap on the screen in order to succeed. For those who struggle with reaction time or have difficulty tapping quickly, this app presents issues. Another issue with this app is the size of the text. For older adults with difficulty reading a computer or cellphone screen, the text on this app could be considered too small. The text is also presented on a very bright background making it even more difficult. My app would make the text much more legible for adults and not require such rapid reaction time. This app would however still require walking outside in order to use it fully because research shows that fitness programs designed for older adults, such as the SilverSneakers program, have improved physical and emotional health and activities of daily living (ADLs) (Hamar et al. 2013.) This suggests a strong need for my app because nowadays, most people have smartphones and have a tendency to live sedentary lives. This especially applies to older adults because the risk of chronic illness increases with age (Hamar et al. 2013.) My app would be beneficial for older adults in multiple ways and might promote fitness in the older generations.
Zombies, Run! is another AR game that is fitness oriented. The main objective of this game is to run from zombies and collect items around your town in order to keep it safe. The app uses zombie noises to motivate users to run away from its attackers. The app was launched in 2012 and was wildly successful among the younger generations because, like Pokémon GO, it promoted physical fitness in an entertaining way. This app, however, also fails to address the needs of older adults. Some older adults cannot run and are therefore immediately excluded from using this app. Some older adults also have trouble with cognitive function and might be barred from playing this game because of the zombie noises emitted from the headphones. Older adults may also be hard of hearing and may have trouble deciphering between noises coming from the headphones and noises coming from the outside world. Another issue with this app among older adults is the size of the font which may be too small and illegible for some. My app would adhere to the needs of the older users by using legible font, not making its users run, and not using startling noises in order to induce running. Exercise is imperative for older adults to age successfully. A study conducted on older adults from Taiwan used a comprehensive geriatric assessment, which includes sociodemographic data, health conditions and behaviors, ADL and instrumental ADL (IADL) function, cognitive and depressive status, and quality of life (Lin et al. 2016.) This study concluded that amidst the physical fitness variables tested; cardiopulmonary endurance, mobility, muscle strength, and balance were significantly associated with successful aging in older adults residing in Taiwan (Lin et al. 2016.) Physical fitness is essential to successful aging in older adults and as a result, my app is necessary in this ever increasing digital world.
My app is called Seniors, Run! and shall meet the needs of older adults in order to increase cognitive functioning, mental health, physical health, proactively combat chronic illness, and promote successful aging. The objective of this app will be to walk around a town or community in order to collect objects and finish challenges. At each object that needs to be collected for advancement in the game, a memory game will spring up. This will not require fast reaction time and will also promote memory retention in older adults. This game will also use large and legible fonts so the users may be able to read it with little to no difficulty. This app may use noises but in order to signify when an item has popped up, not in order to frighten its users. This app will be exceedingly easy to use and will promote fitness in the form of an AR game for its users. This app will also be free but will contain advertisements and in-app purchases in order to advance more quickly in the game. This app will mend the gap that has been created by Pokémon GO and Zombies, Run! in the mobile AR gaming market.
Older adults have typically been considered an afterthought in most markets. This is especially true for video gaming markets and is a very big problem. Older adults make up a large percentage of the world’s population and by excluding them from advancing along with the younger generations will ultimately promote more issues for them. With more and more research being presented about the associations between older adults and successful aging, it is a disservice to exclude a potentially profitable population. Older adults require physical fitness in order to promote successful aging and Seniors, Run! would help to promote wellness within this population.
- Hamar, B., Coberley, C. R., Pope, J. E., & Rula, E. Y. (2013). Impact of a Senior Fitness Program on Measures of Physical and Emotional Health and Functioning. Population Health Management, 16(6), 364-372. doi:10.1089/pop.2012.0111
- Lin, P., Hsieh, C., Cheng, H., Tseng, T., & Su, S. (2016). Association between Physical Fitness and Successful Aging in Taiwanese Older Adults. Plos One, 11(3). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150389