Motor adaptation capacity as a function of age in carrying out a repetitive assembly task at imposed work paces

The working population is getting older. Workers must adapt to changing conditions to respond to the efforts required by the tasks they have to perform. In this laboratory-based study, we investigated the capacities of motor adaptation as a function of age and work pace. Two phases were identified in the task performed: a collection phase, involving dominant use of the lower limbs; and an assembly phase, involving bi-manual motor skills. Results showed that senior workers were mainly limited during the collection phase, whereas they had less difficulty completing the assembly phase. However, senior workers did increase the vertical force applied while assembling parts, whatever the work pace. In younger and middle-aged subjects, vertical force was increased only for the faster pace. Older workers could adapt to perform repetitive tasks under different time constraints, but adaptation required greater effort than for younger workers. These results point towards a higher risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders among seniors.

Martine Annie Gilles, Jean-Charles Guélin, Kévin Desbrosses, Pascal Wild

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