Magazine article USA TODAY

Perception of Touch May Decline with Age

Magazine article USA TODAY

Perception of Touch May Decline with Age

Article excerpt

While scientists have documented many age-related changes, little has been done to examine what happens to people's sense of touch as they grow older. A team of researchers from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, examined dynamic touch--which is involved when an object is grasped firmly and then swung or wielded--in elderly volunteers by testing their ability to perceive a tennis racket's "sweet spot." That is defined as the point on the racket at which contact with a ball would produce the best results.

In the first of two experiments, eight volunteers, aged 62-89, who were not recreational tennis players were seated at a desk. Each had a tennis racket placed in his or her right hand. With their hands and the rackets obscured by a curtain, the volunteers were asked to indicate the length of the racket and the spot on the racket at which they would like to hit a ball. For each of six different-sized rackets, the participants were within four inches of the actual sweet spot and six inches of the actual lengths. The results are comparable to those obtained with younger participants.

In the second experiment, eight volunteers between the ages of 63 and 79 were asked to perceive the length and sweet spot of a rod with a metal ring attached to it. …

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