My elderly mum is always complaining of the cold; I was wondering why older people feel the cold? In temperatures that I feel really comfortable in, my mum is guaranteed to have multiple layers on and still be feeling a chill. Why is this?
I did some research to help me better understand and to see if there was a way to help her and found out that a LOT of people search ‘why do old people feel the cold’ every day on google!
The most common reason that seniors feel the cold is because of a decrease in metabolic rate as we get older. The body is not as capable of keeping the body at a the optimum comfortable temperature of 98.6 degrees.
Another reason that people believe elderly people feel the cold more is because of the thinning of the skin that happens naturally when we age.
Read on to find out more about what the metabolic rate is and how it affects us as we age, along with ways to combat the feeling of cold effectively without just turning the heating up..
Why do seniors feel the cold?
There are a number of reasons that olde people can feel cold frequently, even in a temperature that you or I would feel comfortable in.
- One reason for feeling the colder is that as we age, our metabolic rate decreases, which means we struggle to maintain a comfortable boy temperature. (More about metabolic rate below.)
- Medicine and some prescribed drugs can have the effect of decreasing out body temperature. – for example, ‘beta blockers’ can lower the heart rate, which in turn, reduces the blood pressure in our bodies, especially the circulation to hands and feet.
- Undiagnosed conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension could be a reason why you feel cold all the time, sometimes feeling cold all the time is the reason that people actually see and doctor and get a diagnosis of diabetes or hypertension.
- As we get older we can see a decrease in blood circulation as the walls of the blood vessels loose elasticity.
- The fat layer under the skin can decrease, leaving us feeling colder.
- Thyroid conditions and high cholesterol can also reduce blood flow, affecting the bodies ability to regulate temperature.
What is a metabolic rate?
A lower metabolic rate is perhaps one of the most common reason for elderly people feeling the cold.
A metabolic rate is a the rate at which our bodies can burn calories. As we get older, this metabolic rate can slow down, which reduces how quickly we process the energy we put into our bodies. This energy is what human bodies use to fuel our body temperature and how we stay warm. If the metabolic rate slows down, we are more likely to feel cold more often.
Signs of cold sensitivity other than simply feeling cold and shivering.
- Shivering or feel a chill, even when other people in the same environment feel absolutely fine.
- The skin can turn pale
- The senior can become exhausted quickly
- Speech becomes slurred
- Person can suffer from temporary memory loss of confusion
- Loss of coordination
- Hands start to fumble, they may seem clumsier than usual
- Slow breathing rate
Ways to stop feeling cold all the time.
The obvious solution to being cold is to turn up the heating, however, this is not always a solution and can lead to unaffordable heating bills.
Here are some ideas I have explored to help elderly people from feeling cold all the time.
- Get them to stay hydrated, warm drinks are best, as they can warm their hands too whilst drinking it. Try different drinks like hot chocolate, soups in a cup so they don’t get bored of tea and coffee all the time.
- Get a thermos, so they are not reluctant to boil the kettle each time they make a drink, they can sip little and often.
- Turn up the heating by a very small amount, this is much better that turning the thermostat up to a very high number. By turning the thermostat up by just one or two degrees, there will be a rise in comfort levels, without a drastic increase in cost. (Setting the thermostat at 28 degrees is a waste of money and will run up heating bills fast.)
- Apply for the winter fuel allowance for seniors, this help to subsidise the heating bills.
- Use a gas fire preferably, these are far more cost efficient and effective that electric fires or heaters.
- Avoid fan heaters where possible as the effect is not long lasting.
- Seek out warm clothing and opt for thin layers if possible, instead of one jumper.
- Some long thermal socks will make a difference to how cold you feel – a lot of body heat can be lost through the feet, so always try to wear slippers too.
- An electric blanket will drastically improve their sleep quality if they feel the cold at night. a good nights sleep could in turn help them to feel warmer during the day.
- Keep moving, whilst it is not possible for some people to move their whole bodies all the time. Any movement is better than none. If the elderly person is bed ridden or wheelchair bound for example. Teach them how to fold paper into simple origami shapes, just to keep their fingers moving. It will make a difference.
- If the person has the use of their legs, but has no reason to move around the house, find tasks or things for them to do, depending on their individual abilities. For example, my dad is not great at walking, because of his balance, but he can move his feet and legs slowly. We got him a cycle machine that sits in front of his chair and he does a little bit cycling whilst sitting in the armchair. This helps to keep the blood flowing and increase body temperature.
- Thermal clothing layers are always a good Christmas present – they may not be stylish but are extremely useful!
- Cooking is a fantastic way to stay warm, encourage them to try new recipes, even making simple things like a homemade soup or stew. The heat from the oven or hob helps to heat the house.
- Tell them to avoid getting extremely cold for periods of time, this could lead to an increased risk of hypothermia.