When Older Means Colder

Everyone notices that older people tend to dress more warmly and want their living space heater set at higher temperatures.  Feeling chillier with the onset of autumn and winter is the response to normal age related changes (ARCs), in four major body systems.

Body metabolism (the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy).  This in turn contributes to one’s body heat. Metabolism decreases with increasing age. This means that our internal furnace is not working as well.

Arterial and arteriole blood-vessel walls become thicker, less elastic and tend to have more buildup. They lose ability to relax as quickly during the rhythmic pumping of the heart as they carry oxygen-rich blood to all other parts of the body.

Body fat distribution that serves as insulation changes with age in both women and men as it shifts from extremities to the trunk where it insulates vital organs.

Muscle mass is lost .                                                  Skin thins and its structure changes.

These then are the hindrances we face as we try to stay comfortably warm.

We each have living conditions and resources that determine how we can deal with the cold in our own situation. The following responses are those I found in the literature and used as guidelines for my own staying -warm strategies.

Foods/nutrients can rev up metabolism. Protein is important. It is found in lean meats, poultry, sea food, no-fat or low-fat dairy products such as milk, Greek yogurt, cheese, tree nuts; oatmeal and vegetables such as dried beans and lentils.  Fruits include: oranges, grapefruit, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, mango, guava, and papaya. In beverages, coffee, tea (black or green) and cacao. Alcohol however is the enemy of metabolism!

Clothing creates external insulation. Clothing items, fabric and style whose weight, weave and texture keep our body heat in and the cold out for each exposed body part. I find myself using multiple layers and my slippers are fleecy. For bedding we can choose flannel sheets and pillow cases, quilts and even use electrically heated mattress pads or blankets as well as wear head coverings keep one warm at night.

Drapes over the windows can be pulled to close out the cold.

Ambient air around us offers a comfortable temperature.  I’m  one of the fortunate ones with both a thermostat controlled furnace and a gas fireplace close by my recliner. The glow of the fire adds coziness to longer black nights as well as comforting warmth.

3 thoughts on “When Older Means Colder

  1. Very timely and informative! Somehow, understanding the physiological foundations of feeling colder when older validate that “it’s not all in our heads”. Thank you!


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