Age differences in skin potential level (SPL) of young adult and aged men were investigated using basal skin potential level (BSPL) procedures at three levels of epidermal hydration. A glycol medium was used at a site of least hydration. A distilled water and agar solution was the medium at two other more hydrated sites which also received either 0 min or 15 min pretreatment in distilled water. A 0.5% KCl electrolyte concentration was used at all sites. Significant effects for age and hydration were dependent on the point in the recording session comparisons were made. The major findings were: (1) the old men had significantly lower SPLs than did the young men at the start of recording with the glycol electrolyte medium; there were no significant age differences at the start of recording with the agar mediums, or at BSPL with any hydration condition. (2) Hydration significantly affected SPL magnitude at the start of recording, but not at BSPL. SPL recorded with the glycol medium at certain points in the recording was significantly related to outdoor activity among the aged men. This effect was independent of differences in cardiovascular status, and cardiovascular status was not significantly correlated with glycol SPL. It is concluded that there is a reduced sweat gland potential in old age which can only be observed when recording conditions produce high epidermal resistance. This reduced sweat gland potential is related to low levels of outdoor activity.
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