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Jan M. Hondzinski, Li Li and Michael Welsch

We examined the effects of aging and lower limb sensory deficits (LLSD) on whole body control. Performances of a reaching task involving a step were measured in subjects with LLSD and young and older controls. Having LLSD was accompanied with greater reach errors and variability in lateral step deviations. Aging effects explained the smaller step deviations and longer movement times. These results suggest that older adults with LLSD have performance declines associated with deficits of the disease and aging that often differ, at least for this goal-directed discrete task. Furthermore, longer MT for older controls and shorter MT for LLSD subjects were associated with greater movement coupling. Longer movement periods likely offered older controls time to use sensory feedback to maintain good endpoint accuracy. Evidently, somatosensations from the limbs used during performance of whole body movements are required for the most accurate goal-directed control.

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Andrew A. Pellett, Leann Myers, Michael Welsch, S. Michal Jazwinski and David A. Welsh

Diastolic dysfunction, often seen with increasing age, is associated with reduced exercise capacity and increased mortality. Mortality rates in older individuals are linked to the development of disability, which may be preceded by functional limitations. The goal of this study was to identify which echocardiographic measures of diastolic function correlate with physical function in older subjects. A total of 36 men and women from the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study, age 62–101 yr, received a complete echocardiographic exam and performed the 10-item continuous-scale physical-functional performance test (CS-PFP-10). After adjustment for age and gender, left atrial volume index (ρ = –0.59; p = .0005) correlated with the total CS-PFP-10 score. Increased left atrial volume index may be a marker of impaired performance of activities of daily living in older individuals.

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Robert H. Wood, Rafael Reyes-Alvarez, Brian Maraj, Kristi L. Metoyer and Michael A. Welsch

It has been suggested that physical and cognitive functions are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQL). Previous work examining the relationship between physical ability and HRQL is equivocal, and information about cognitive function in relation to HRQL is largely restricted to people with cognitive impairments. We investigated the relationships of physical ability and cognitive performance to HRQL in 44 older adults (72-93 years). The results suggest significant relationships between the endurance item of the AAHPERD test and the physical mobility and pain components of HRQL and between AAHPERD agility scores and the physical mobility component of HRQL. Visual simple-reaction time and the backward digit-span memory test were found to be related to physical mobility. The subject-performed-tasks memory test was related to the social component of HRQL. These data support the use of the AAHPERD test for characterizing physical ability of older adults as it relates to HRQL and identify specific cognitive support measures that reflect the relationship between cognition and HRQL in older adults.