Physical Activity Intervention for Loneliness (PAIL) in community-dwelling older adults: a randomised feasibility study

Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2020 May 23;6:73. doi: 10.1186/s40814-020-00587-0. eCollection 2020.


Background: Low quality social relationships in older adults are strongly associated with feelings of loneliness. Physical activity interventions could reduce loneliness and improve psychological well-being, among other health benefits. The aim of this study was to examine the feasibility of a Physical Activity Intervention for Loneliness (PAIL) in community-dwelling older adults at risk of loneliness.

Methods: The PAIL feasibility study was a 12-week randomized controlled feasibility trial (RCT) conducted in Birmingham, United Kingdom, from February 2018 to August 2018, and ran in two waves of data collection. Eligible participants were community-dwelling adults aged 60 years and older, sedentary (less than 20 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) a week), and at risk of loneliness. The intervention included once-weekly group walk and health education workshop up to 90 min per session in total, with a wait-listed (WL) control group. The primary feasibility outcomes were to estimate recruitment, retention rates and adherence to the intervention. Secondary outcome measures (not blinded assessment) were body mass index, blood pressure, physical activity and psychosocial variables. Process and outcome evaluations were conducted using focus groups interviews. The recruitment and retention progression criteria for the definitive large-scale RCT was set a-priori.

Results: Forty-eight participants were recruited over 4 months with a recruitment rate of 25% (48/195); 52% (25/48) met the inclusion criteria and 100% (25/25) were randomised into the intervention (n = 12) and WL control groups (n = 13). Participants were 25 older adults (mean (SD) 68.5(8.05) years), 14 (56%) female, and 18 (72%) white. At 12 weeks, 10/12 (83.3%) intervention and 10/13 (76.9%) control participants completed the final assessments. The average attendance rate was 58.3% for the intervention group (range 33.0%-75.0%) and 42.3% (range 23.1%-69.2%) among controls. The a priori recruitment and retention criteria for progression were not met. No serious adverse events occurred. The focus group results identified three themes which showed overall positive experiences of participation in PAIL in terms of (1) study design and intervention; (2) walking sessions; and (3) health education workshops.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that community-dwelling older adults at risk of loneliness found the intervention and measures acceptable and could safely participate. However, a more extensive and robust strategy would be needed to support adequate recruitment of lonely older adults and adherence into a definitive RCT.

Trial registration:, NCT03458793.

Keywords: Feasibility study; Loneliness; Older adults; Physical activity; Randomised controlled trial.

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