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Why Seniors Get Cold Easily and How to Help

In many ways, the golden years represent a time of physical change that's just as profound and far-reaching as that of puberty. Elderly women may find that one decade brings hot flashes and night sweats so intense that the air conditioner is always running. However, once this period ends, many will often maintain warmer temperatures indoors and never go far without a light jacket or sweater. In their 50s, 60s, and beyond, aging adults have a tendency to become more sensitive to cold. Common among both men and women, this is a development that results from significant, physiological changes that are happening throughout their bodies. Below are more reasons why seniors get cold easily and how we can help them.

The Metabolism Slows Down

As people grow older, their metabolisms become less robust. Sensitivity to cold temperatures may come at a time when your loved one's appetite is on the decline and battles with weight management have reared their heads.

The Blood Vessels Become Less Elastic

When the body perceives cold, the blood vessels constrict. With warmer blood in the interior of the body, a person's internal core temperature can remain high. For aging adults, gradual hardening of the arteries makes this automatic response to cold less effective. 

Subcutaneous Fat Thins

The fat layer that lies just beneath the skin is known as subcutaneous fat. This is different from the tallowy, yellow fat that sometimes surrounds the internal organs known as visceral fat. As people grow older, their subcutaneous fat thins. This change also becomes even more significant when paired with a waning appetite, digestive issues, or chronic ailments that lead to substantial weight loss. This is one of the many reasons why seniors get cold easily.

Certain Cues are No Longer Being Sent

Even as blood vessels become more rigid and subcutaneous fat layers thin, various automatic processes throughout the body that impact temperature regulation are waning. For instance, special receptors that perceive both cold and feelings of cold are responsible for telling the blood vessels to constrict. If these receptors aren't working correctly, the body has limited ways to warm itself. 

In many instances, medication may change how the body perceives and reacts to cold. As an example, calcium channel blockers and beta blockers that control hypertension often cause seniors to feel cold.

Seniors With Chronic Health Issues are Often More Sensitive to Cold Temperatures Than Most

There's also a large number of common, chronic, age-related illnesses that affect natural temperature regulation in seniors. Among these are:

  • Diabetes

  • Heart Disease

  • Anemia

  • Thyroid Issues

  • Kidney Disease

  • Raynaud's Syndrome

Having these illnesses diagnosed and properly managed may make it easier for seniors to naturally regulate their own body temperatures.

How to Help Your Loved One Stay Warm

Encouraging aging adults to maintain active lifestyles is one way to beat back the chill. Seniors who get moving have better blood flow than aging adults who lead largely sedentary lifestyles. Regular exercises can also limit the rigidity of blood vessels and stimulate a hearty appetite. Eating well and maintaining an adequate layer of subcutaneous fat is always a good way to stay warm.

If you are an age-in-place senior or if you have an age-in-place adult in your life, make sure that the home is suitably adaptable for accommodating changes in temperature and personal preferences. Thermostats should be easy to access and easy to adjust. Windows should be easy to open and close, and sweaters, throw blankets, as well as other comfort items, should be ready at hand.

Getting Help to Provide Help

When seniors get cold easily and have a hard time regulating their own body temperatures, they're often struggling in other ways. Changes in blood vessel elasticity and metabolism are often paired with balance, mobility, as well as cognition issues.

Sometimes, giving aging adults the help they need becomes a full-time job. Fortunately, the NY State Medicaid CDPAP programs understand the financial challenges this presents. With NY State Medicaid CDPAP, family members can become paid caregivers for their loved ones. Best of all, signing up for this program can be easy.

Elite Choice is a fiscal intermediary that can help with this process. Thus, whether your loved one is always cold, unable to prepare meals for themselves, or needs help with basic self-care, you can care for them and still continue to provide for yourself. Call us to find out more.

Written by: Leah Ganz
Director of Patient Services

Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.