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Physical and Sensorimotor Changes in Adulthood
Unlike all prior developmental periods, which were characterized by increases in strength and agility, changes in physical and sensorimotor abilities throughout adulthood are largely a story of decline. Many of our physical and sensory abilities peak in our early to mid-twenties and then gradually deteriorate from this point forward. There are of course profes-sional athletes who manage to compete at the highest levels into their forties, and healthier lifestyles have made it possible for adults to run marathons and water ski into their eighties, but these individuals are the exceptions rather than the rule (Figure 14.37). The passing decades still bring undeniable losses in physical and sensorimotor functioning.
Both sexes experience physical changes in middle age, including weight gain, loss of muscle mass, and hair thinning and graying. The age-related declines in physical and sensory capabilities accelerate in older age, and so, as people age, they become markedly weaker and slower. There are also significant declines in sight, smell, and hear-ing (see Figure 14.38). These various changes in turn cause other problems. For example, the risk of a fatal accident while driving (per mile driven) increases in later adulthood and jumps markedly after age 70 (Coughlin, Mohyde, Dâ€™Ambrosio, & Gilbert, 2004).
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