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Gerontechnology and perceptual motor-function: New opportunities for prevention, compensation, and enhancement

J.L. Fozard

Gerontechnology 2001; 1(1):5-24 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4017/gt.2001.01.01.002.00

Abstract

This article reviews recent scientific literature on age-related declines in perceptual motor functioning in hearing, vision, and proprioception. The first goal of the review is to identify opportunities for multidisciplinary research and development efforts designed either to prevent or delay the loss of perceptual-motor function or to compensate for existing losses. The second is to identify ways in which technology can be used to support new opportunities for communication, artistic expression, education and work that often occur for older persons, particularly those who have retired. METHODS AND RESULTS: Prevention. Long-term intervention trials are proposed to prevent or delay age-related declines in hearing sensitivity and physical functioning as related to gait and balance. Compensation. Programs of environmental interventions and consumer education are proposed to compensate for age-related losses in the quality of auditory and visual images. Opportunities for improving the description of equal audibility and visibility functions as related to environmental interventions were identified. Programs combining environmental interventions and training are proposed for tasks requiring visual search, manual guidance, and gait and balance. Enhancement. Opportunities for increasing the use of technological products and environments to support social communication, group and individual artistic activities, work, and education were described. At present, research and development efforts in this area are limited; so the discussion of opportunities is based largely on informal observations and non-scientific sources. CONCLUSIONS: Research and development efforts using the combined scientific and engineering disciplines represented in gerontechnology can make a significant impact on reducing the negative consequences of age-related declines in perceptual-motor functioning. Such efforts can also be used to support activities that may improve quality of life for older persons. Together, such efforts will help create the "enabling environment for healthy aging" proclaimed during the 1999 United Nations International Year of the Elderly.

Keywords: gerontechnology; aging; vision; hearing; proprioception; interventions

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Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology