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      Effects of aging on hand function.

      Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

      physiology, Adult, Aged, Aging, Female, Geriatric Assessment, Hand Strength, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Motor Skills, Reaction Time, Reference Values, Sex Factors, Touch

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          The purpose of this study was to quantify age-induced changes in handgrip and finger-pinch strength, ability to maintain a steady submaximal finger pinch force and pinch posture, speed in relocating small objects with finger grip, and ability to discriminate two identical mechanical stimuli applied to the finger tip. A cross-sectional study. Greater Cleveland area of Ohio. Healthy, independent, young (n = 27, range 20-35 years) and older (n = 28, range 65-79 years) subjects. Handgrip strength, maximum pinch force (MPF), ability to maintain a steady pinch force at three relative force levels (5%, 10%, and 20% MPF) and three absolute force levels (2.5 Newtons (N), 4 N, and 8 N), ability to maintain a precision pinch posture, speed in relocating pegs from a nearby location onto the pegboard, and the shortest distance for discriminating two stimuli were measured in both young and older groups. Compared with young subjects, the older group's handgrip force was 30% weaker (P < .001), MPF was 26% lower (P < .05), and ability to maintain steady submaximal pinch force and a precision pinch posture was significantly less (P < .05). The time taken to relocate the pegs and the distance needed to discriminate two identical stimuli increased significantly with age (P < .01). The decrease in the ability to maintain steady submaximal pinch force was more pronounced in women than men. Aging has a degenerative effect on hand function, including declines in hand and finger strength and ability to control submaximal pinch force and maintain a steady precision pinch posture, manual speed, and hand sensation.

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