Interactions between cold ambient temperature and older age on haptic acuity and manual performance
Winter’s cold ambient temperatures can be dangerous, particularly in the elderly. A reduced ability to perceive and react to cold stress elicits physical risk. Significant reductions in perceptual accuracy may result in frustrating delays and errors. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of exposure to cold ambient temperature on older persons’ haptic perceptual acuity and manual performance.
Psychomotor performance was evaluated using various haptic psychomotor tests at room (23° C) and cold (1° C) ambient temperatures. Older persons reported the cold ambient temperature as less uncomfortable and both tests of haptic acuity as less demanding compared with younger persons. The cold temperature enhanced performances of the younger persons, but did not impact the older persons’ generally slower performances. However, the cold temperature slowed older persons and led them to generate significantly more force that in turn may be unfavorable to the manual actions of older persons in a number of ways. With higher force generation, movement variability may increase, which can lead to frustrations, fatigue, and repetitive strain injury, as well as to incidents that are potentially dangerous.
The authors suggest that the impact of cold exposure seems to lie in motor output. It may be that cold exposure impacts the properties of efferent nerve conduction, vasoconstriction, and/or joint mechanics in older persons. Further research on the impact of cold ambient temperature will contribute to developing strategies to assist older persons in daily performance. > From: Tajmir et al., Can J Aging 32 (2013) 195-202. All rights reserved to Canadian Association on Gerontology 2013.
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