Age-Related Changes in Field Dependence–Independence and Implications for Geriatric Rehabilitation: A Review

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Human aging is a dynamic life-long process and an inevitable experience. As the average age of the world’s population rises, demands for effective geriatric rehabilitation dramatically increase. An important consideration for enhancing geriatric behavioral interventions is to better understand aging characteristics in perceptual, cognitive, and motor performances. A general shift in cognitive style from field independence to field dependence has been consistently observed during human aging, as older adults show a greater tendency to rely on environmental information, presumably reflecting a neuro-compensatory mechanism of reducing top-down control and relying instead on bottom-up processing. These changes in cognitive style can impact motor skill learning and relearning and, consequently, affect geriatric rehabilitation and behavioral treatments. In this article, we review research related to the cognitive style of field dependence and independence, and its dynamic associations with aging. We also identify implications of cognitive style for geriatric rehabilitation and explore future research.

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