Objective. When teaching clients a multistep functional task, therapists tend to break down the task into part tasks with discrete movements. The purpose of this study was to compare the kinematic performance between part and whole tasks in elderly persons.
Method. A counterbalanced repeated-measures design was used. Twenty elderly persons without motor problems (7 men, 13 women) performed a signature task in two conditions. For the part-task condition, the participants did the task in a step-by-step manner: (a) reach for a pen, (b) bring the pen to the paper, and (c) sign the name. For the whole-task condition, the participants performed the task in an integrated continuous flow. Kinematic performances for two movement segments (i.e., reaching for the pen, bringing the pen to the paper) were compared between conditions.
Results. Generally, the whole-task condition elicited a more efficient, more forceful, and smoother movement than the part-task condition.
Conclusion. The results suggest the importance of keeping a multistep functional task whole.