The Agewell trial: a pilot randomised controlled trial of a behaviour change intervention to promote healthy ageing and reduce risk of dementia in later life

BMC Psychiatry. 2015 Feb 19;15:25. doi: 10.1186/s12888-015-0402-4.


Background: Lifestyle factors represent prime targets for behaviour change interventions to promote healthy ageing and reduce dementia risk. We evaluated a goal-setting intervention aimed at promoting increased cognitive and physical activity and improving mental and physical fitness, diet and health.

Methods: This was a pilot randomised controlled trial designed to guide planning for a larger-scale investigation, provide preliminary evidence regarding efficacy, and explore feasibility and acceptability. Primary outcomes were engagement in physical and cognitive activity. Participants aged over 50 living independently in the community were recruited through a community Agewell Centre. Following baseline assessment participants were randomly allocated to one of three conditions: control (IC) had an interview in which information about activities and health was discussed; goal-setting (GS n = 24) had an interview in which they set behaviour change goals relating to physical, cognitive and social activity, health and nutrition; and goal-setting with mentoring (GM, n = 24) had the goal-setting interview followed by bi-monthly telephone mentoring. Participants and researchers were blinded to group assignment. Participants were reassessed after 12 months.

Results: Seventy-five participants were randomised (IC n = 27, GS n = 24, GM n = 24). At 12-month follow-up, the two goal-setting groups, taken together (GS n = 21, GM n = 22), increased their level of physical (effect size 0.37) and cognitive (effect size 0.15) activity relative to controls (IC n = 27). In secondary outcomes, the two goal-setting groups taken together achieved additional benefits compared to control (effect sizes ≥ 0.2) in memory, executive function, cholesterol level, aerobic capacity, flexibility, balance, grip strength, and agility. Adding follow-up mentoring produced further benefits compared to goal-setting alone (effect sizes ≥ 0.2) in physical activity, body composition, global cognition and memory, but not in other domains. Implementation of the recruitment procedure, assessment and intervention was found to be feasible and the approach taken was acceptable to participants, with no adverse effects.

Conclusions: A brief, low-cost goal-setting intervention is feasible and acceptable, and has the potential to achieve increased activity engagement.

Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN30080637.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Behavior Therapy*
  • Cognition
  • Dementia / prevention & control*
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Pilot Projects

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN30080637