Background: Although functional task-specific training is a viable approach for upper extremity neurorehabilitation, its appropriateness for older populations is unclear. If task-specific training is to be prescribed to older adults, it must be efficacious and feasible, even in patients with cognitive decline due to advancing age.
Objective: This cross-sectional study tested the efficacy and feasibility of upper extremity task-specific training in older adults, including those with lower cognitive scores.
Methods: Fifty older adults (age 65-89 years) without any confounding neuromuscular impairment were randomly assigned to a training group or no-training group. The training group completed 3 days (dosage = 2250 repetitions) of a functional upper extremity motor task (simulated feeding) with their nondominant hand; the no-training group completed no form of training at all. Both groups' task performance (measured as trial time) was tested at pre- and posttest, and the training group was retested 1 month later. Efficacy was determined by rate, amount, and retention of training-related improvement, and compared across levels of cognitive status. Feasibility was determined by participants' tolerance of the prescribed training dose.
Results: The training group was able to complete the training dose without adverse responses and showed a significant rate, amount, and retention of improvement compared with the no-training group. Cognitive status did not alter results, although participants with lower scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment were slower overall.
Conclusions: Task-specific training may be appropriate for improving upper extremity function in older adults, yet future work in older patients with specific neurological conditions is needed.
Keywords: aging; cognition; motor learning; task-specific training; upper extremity.
© The Author(s) 2014.