As temperatures start to drop throughout winter, it becomes more important to make sure our beloved seniors are kept safe and warm. While you might believe that seniors are just characteristically warm-blooded, some science backs up elderly cold intolerance and their vulnerability to sudden temperature changes.
As people age, their skin begins to lose elasticity and becomes thinner. This makes fluctuating temperatures much harder for the body to regulate. When a person is cold, the heart decreases the amount of blood it pumps to the skin causing tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface to constrict to conserve heat. Age decreases the elasticity of blood vessel walls and thins the fat layers underneath the skin — making preserving body heat much more difficult.
The Dangers of Elderly Cold Intolerance
For seniors, feeling cold isn’t just uncomfortable or unpleasant — it can be flat-out dangerous. It doesn’t take freezing temperatures for seniors to develop hypothermia, which sets in when a person’s body temperature drops below 95° F. A mere 60°F environment can result in a senior’s body temperature dipping dangerously low.
Keeping Seniors Warm
With elderly cold intolerance in mind, seniors who rely heavily on the care of others for their well-being need to be safeguarded from the dangers of the cold. Caregivers are crucial in keeping them warm and preventing hypothermia during cold winter days. Here are some important tips to help you keep your older loved ones warm this winter:
Keep seniors’ homes adequately heated.
The first step to keeping seniors warm is ensuring their living environment is conducive to their health and comfort. Some elderly people may want to avoid turning the heat on for the sake of saving money on their electric bills. However, hypothermia can set in at surprisingly high temperatures. Saving money should never be one of the causes of feeling cold in the elderly.
Help seniors dress in warm clothing.
Even if they aren’t leaving the house, seniors can suffer from elderly cold intolerance inside. Encourage your older loved ones to wear several layers daily, including thermal underwear, socks, undershirts, and even hats. Laying a blanket over their legs can also help keep them nice, warm, and snug.
If they do leave the house, ensure they’re wearing multiple layers, scarves, gloves, and weather-appropriate attire. Frequently check the weather to ensure they are properly dressed and comfortable. Not wearing weather-appropriate clothing is one of the major causes of feeling cold in the elderly.
Make sure seniors are eating nutritious food and staying hydrated.
A poor diet and nutrient deficiency can make elderly cold intolerance worse. Help prevent this problem by encouraging a healthy, nutrient-dense diet. Preparing healthy food and ensuring they eat the right portions will improve their body’s ability to regulate temperature. Warm liquids, like soups and teas, can also help keep your elderly loved ones warm on cold winter days. Dry air temperatures inside and outside can also cause dehydration, so make sure your senior drinks lots of water.
Encourage seniors to stay active.
Encouraging seniors to get active isn’t just beneficial to their physical fitness — it’s a great way to keep seniors warm. Inactivity is one of the causes of feeling cold in the elderly. Remaining sedentary for extended periods can drive their body temperatures down and affect body heat. If they can, encourage your elderly loved ones to stand up, stretch their legs, and walk around a bit.
Check-in on them frequently.
Some seniors are keener on privacy than others. It is up to their families and caregivers to determine how often their elderly loved ones should be checked on. Create a plan and schedule so that someone is frequently checking in. Many prominent causes of feeling cold in the elderly can be prevented with attentiveness. Not only do these visits serve as a wellness check for the seniors, but it is also an opportunity to ensure that their living environment is conducive to their warmth and nourishment.
Know the warning signs.
Lastly, caregivers must be able to recognize the signs of hypothermia. The symptoms begin slowly, and as the main provider of care, you are likely the first line of defense against this condition.