You’re not imagining it: you really do get colder as you age. Your body undergoes several changes that impact your tolerance of cold temperatures. Some individuals can stand the cold more than others, there’s no denying that, but everyone loses their ability to withstand extreme temperatures as they age.
Why We Get Colder with Age
There are several reasons why age makes you more prone to cold temperatures, including:
- Thermoregulation is Not as Effective: Thermoregulation is the natural process that helps to maintain optimal body temperature. Your body undergoes a series of changes when adapting to cold or hot temperatures, including sweating, vasodilatation, vasoconstriction, and thermogenesis. It’s an essential process that prevents hypothermia and overheating, and it’s one that loses efficiency with age.
- Fat Layers: Insulating fat layers get thinner with age. As a result, the body is less efficient at holding onto heat. Imagine that you live in a house with biodegradable insulation. In the beginning, it will be very effective at holding onto heat. But as the house ages and the insulation degrades, it loses its potency and you begin to feel the cold a little more. Your body works in much the same way.
- Circulation Problems: Blood vessels lose elasticity with age, which causes extremities like the hands and feet to become much colder more quickly.
How to Withstand Cold Temperatures in the Home
Seniors have a reputation for being allergic to the thermostat. They keep the temperature low to save a few bucks but in doing so, they could be putting their health in jeopardy.
A 2018 study looked at close to 89 million deaths that occurred in the United States from 1980 to 2016. It found that young people were more likely to die in the summer months whereas older people were more likely to die in the winter.
Not all of these were related to extreme temperatures, of course, but it certainly seems to play a role. Hypothermia is a very serious concern for men and women over the age of 65, accounting for roughly 1.5 deaths for every 100,000 people. Cold temperatures also increase the risk of other conditions and may lead to heart, liver, and kidney damage, as well as a host of skin problems.
It makes the $55 average monthly gas spend look insignificant, but if money is tight or your bills are much higher than the average, try the following money saving tips:
- Buy a Smart Thermostat: A smart thermostat is activated by voice commands or through a smartphone app. More importantly, these devices will detect imperceptible changes in the home’s temperature and adjust accordingly. It can raise when there is a draft and reduce when the oven is blasting.
- Insulate: Even if your home has insulation, it may be missing in key places. Many garage doors, for instance, are old, weak, and drafty, and you could be losing heat through your attic or gaps in the windows. Oftentimes, a few simple fixes are all that’s required.
- Wrap up Warm: Grab some blankets, wear several layers of clothes, and you’ll retain more of your body heat. A heavy, thick blanket is relatively cheap and will last for years.
- Only Heat the Rooms You’re In: If you’re spending all of your time moving from the living room to the bedroom, do you really need to heat the spare room and office?
How to Combat the Cold
Wearing a few more layers is essential if you find yourself becoming more susceptible to the cold. However, there are a few more things to consider:
- Wear Layers: Insulated undergarments, t-shirts, sweaters, coats, scarves, hats—wear as many layers as you are comfortable wearing.
- Drink Lots of Fluid: Seniors are more prone to dehydration, as the body becomes less effective at retaining water and expels it much quicker. If you’re wearing lots of layers, you’ll be trapping a lot of heat and may sweat more as a result. Stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day and taking a bottle with you whenever you leave the house.
- Wear the Right Fabrics: Not all fabrics are weighted the same and you need to choose the right ones if you want to conserve the most heat. Wool is one of the best fabrics for keeping you warm in the winter. It’s water-resistant, lightweight, and durable, and these days there are multiple different blends and varieties to choose from.
- Eat Warming Foods: Nothing warms you up faster than a hot bowl of soup accompanied by some grilled cheese. A steaming cup of tea is a great way to start the day or perk you up after spending many hours in the cold.
- Stay Active: The reason athletes don’t freeze when wearing shorts and jerseys and playing in cold temperatures is because they stay active and activity keeps the body warm. You don’t need to run around, just try to keep moving when you’re out and about.
- Avoid Alcohol: While a few glasses of brandy will make you feel warm initially, it’s a false warmth and the alcohol actually does more harm to your body and its ability to regulate temperature, especially when it’s consumed to excess.
- Wear Thick Socks: A thick pair of wool socks can work wonders and will keep your feet warm and dry inside and outside the home. You can even wear them for bed, ensuring these exposed extremities don’t turn blue in the middle of the night.
- Buy an Electric Blanket: You can’t beat the feeling of slipping into a toasty bed when there is a storm brewing outside and your home is ice-cold. Use it to warm the bed a few minutes before slipping inside, and turn it on if you wake up cold.
As a senior, your health and warmth are more important than your heating bill. Don’t skimp on the thermostat, stop stressing over your bills, and start putting your health and comfort at the top of your list of priorities.