A realist evaluation of the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial of a digital music and movement intervention for older people living in care homes



Ofosu E, De Nys L, Connelly J, Ryde GC & Whittaker A (2023) A realist evaluation of the feasibility of a randomised controlled trial of a digital music and movement intervention for older people living in care homes. BMC Geriatrics, 23 (1), Art. No.: 125.

Background Low physical activity in care home residents brings about negative mental health consequences, such as higher levels of depression and loneliness. With advancements in communication technology, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the feasibility and effectiveness of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of a digital Physical Activity (PA) resource in care homes deserve more research attention. A realist evaluation was used to uncover influencing factors of a feasibility study implementation to inform how a digital music and movement programme would work and under what circumstances this would be most effective. Methods Participants were 49 older adults (aged 65 years +) recruited across ten care homes in Scotland. Surveys were administered at baseline and post-intervention comprising psychometric questionnaires on multidimensional health markers validated in older adults with possible cognitive impairment. The intervention comprised 12 weeks of four prescribed digitally delivered movement (n = 3) and music-only (n = 1) sessions per week. An activity coordinator delivered these online resources in the care home. Post-intervention focus groups with staff and interviews with a sub-sample of participants were conducted to gain qualitative data on the acceptability of the intervention. Results Thirty three care home residents started the intervention, but only 18 residents (84% female) completed both pre- and post-intervention assessments. Activity coordinators (AC) offered 57% of the prescribed sessions, with an average residents’ adherence of 60%. Delivery of the intervention did not go as planned due to Covid restrictions in care homes and delivery challenges, including (1) motivation and engagement, (2) changes in cognitive impairment and disabilities of the participants, (3) death or hospitalisation of the participants and (4) limited staffing and technology resources to deliver the programme as intended. Despite this, group participation and encouragement of residents supported the delivery and acceptance of the intervention, with ACs and residents reporting improved mood, physical health, job satisfaction and social support. Improvements with large effect sizes were found for anxiety, depression, loneliness, perceived stress and sleep satisfaction, but no changes in fear of falling, domains of general health or appetite. Conclusion This realist evaluation suggested that this digitally delivered movement and music intervention is feasible. From the findings, the initial programme theory was refined for future implementation of an RCT in other care homes but future research exploring how to tailor the intervention to those with cognitive impairment and/or lacking capacity to consent is needed.

Activity coordinators; Care homes; Digital physical activity; Feasibity; Realist evaluation; Residents

BMC Geriatrics: Volume 23, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2023
Publication date online06/03/2023
Date accepted by journal02/02/2023
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC

People (4)


Dr Jenni Connelly
Dr Jenni Connelly

Senior Lecturer, Sport

Doctor Len De Nys
Doctor Len De Nys

PhD Researcher, Sport

Miss Esther Oyebola
Miss Esther Oyebola

Tutor, Sport

Professor Anna Whittaker
Professor Anna Whittaker

Professor of Behavioural Medicine, Sport