Exer-game for Caregivers

An exercise game to improve healthcare outcomes for caregivers of patients living with Alzheimer's disease.


Research shows that caregivers often suffer from poor health outcomes due to the amount of time they spend caring for their loved one. This project was the beginning stages of an application intended to improve their health outcomes. It is still in development and will be hopefully be used in research studies in the future.

What I did

Elizabeth Stowell is a PhD candidate in the Personal Health Informatics program at Northeastern University, and I consulted for her on this project. When I joined she had already done the background research and she asked me to help with the visual and interaction design of the game, which was determined to have a gardening theme.

Research & Inspiration

I began by reading two papers Lily sent me to get acquainted with the material and exploring different types of exercise apps for inspiration. I mainly sought to find out how these apps encouraged activity and kept users engaged and coming back day after day.

Results of published exergame studies
Paper Game Description Targetted Health Behavior
Let's All Get Up and Walk to the North Pole Team works together to walk to virtual destination by counting steps Walking
HealthyTogether: Exploring Social Incentives for Mobile Fitness Applications Two-person groups either cooperate, compete, or hybrid mode to accomplish a goal number of steps Number of steps, number of stairs, social interaction
Long-Term Use of Motion-Based Video Games in Care Home Settings 4 different games - based on hand and body motion Motion in older adults
Design and Evaluation of a Networked Game to Support Social Connection of Youth with Celebral Palsy Networked game played using a stationary recumbent bicycle and Logitech wireless game controller. Exercise and social interaction between youth with cerebral palsy

Brainstorming & Sketches

Lily knew she wanted a garden theme for the game and what different sections were needed, but she wasn't sure about the navigation or how the game would work. From our conversations, I began building some basic navigation flows from each of the main menu sections.

Initial navigation flows


Once there was a basic structure for the navigation I began designing what I'll call "medium fidelity" screens. I prefer to work in color even if the UI will be further developed in the future because it helps me visualize my work. For these screens though I was primarily focusing on the navigation, interaction, and UX. We opted for a simple game with a similar premise as Farmville, where users can grow their garden and upgrade it infinitely.

Initial navigation flows

Shop for plants with coins earned from exercise

Users track their activity with a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other wearable, and their steps and stairs are translated into coins. Inside the plant shop users can select plants that they've earned enough coins for, encouraging them to increase exercise for certain plants or save up.

Place plants anywhere in the garden

Once a user has selected a plant they can drag and drop it into any open plot in their garden. The garden canvas is effectively infinite and allows the user to build the garden however they want. Plants also "grow" when a user waters them.

Initial navigation flows
Initial navigation flows

Earn water by logging strength exercises

Coins are earned through cardio, but water is earned through logging strength exercises. These exercises are input manually; the user first searches for the exercise they performed and then enters the number of minutes or reps they performed, and any notes.


What I learned

This project taught me a lot about navigation. It was interesting designing for a population that may or may not have technical literacy and it forced me to think about what is intuitive, instead of just what is typical.

Project Details

Date: Fall 2017
Contributors: Brenna Sorkin, Elizabeth Stowell
Skills: Experience mapping, interaction design
Client: Wellness Technology Lab