BACKGROUND: Sensory-processing abilities are known to deteriorate in the elderly. As a result, daily activities such as handwriting may be impaired. Yet, knowledge about sensory-processing involvement in handwriting characteristics among older persons is limited.

PURPOSE: To examine how age influences sensory-processing abilities and the impact on handwriting as a daily performance.

METHOD: The study participants were 118 healthy, independently functioning adults divided into four age groups: 31-45, 46-60, 61-75 and 76+ years. All participants completed the Adolescent/ Adult Sensory Profile (AASP). Handwriting process was documented using the Computerized Handwriting Penmanship Evaluation Tool (ComPET).

FINDINGS: Age significantly affects sensory processing and handwriting pressure as well as temporal and spatial measures. Both handwriting time and spatial organization of the written product were predicted by sensory seeking. When examining age contribution to the prediction of handwriting by sensory processing, sensory seeking showed a tendency for predicting handwriting pressure (p = .06), while sensory sensitivity significantly predicted handwriting velocity.

IMPLICATIONS: Age appears to influence sensory-processing abilities and affect daily performance tasks, such as handwriting, for which sensitivity and seeking for sensations are essential. Awareness of clinicians to sensory-processing deficits among older adults and examining their impact on broader daily activities are essential to improve daily performance and quality of life.

Published in: Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2012, 79, 264-274.