Our understanding of age-related declines in upper limb proprioceptive abilities is limited. Furthermore, the extent to which physical activity might ameliorate age-related changes in proprioception is not known. Upper limb proprioceptive acuity was examined in young and older (active and sedentary) right-handed adults using a wrist-position-matching task that varied in terms of processing demands. Older individuals were also classified according to their participation in tasks specific to the upper limb. Errors were greater for older than younger individuals. Older sedentary adults showed greater errors and performed movements less smoothly than older active adults. The nonspecific group showed greater errors and longer movement times than the upper-limb-specific group. In older adults, decreased ability to perceive limb position may be related to a sedentary lifestyle and declines associated with memory and transfer of proprioceptive information. Performing tasks specific to the upper limbs may reduce age-related declines in proprioception.
Adamo is with the Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. Alexander is with the Div. of Geriatric Medicine and the Dept. of Internal Medicine, and Brown, the School of Kinesiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2013.