Older adults tend to lose body heat much faster than when they were young. It's also harder for elderly people to become aware of changes in body temperature due to changes in the body that come with aging. Getting too cold can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what's happening, and a condition called hypothermia can set in.
Hypothermia is what happens when your body temperature gets very low. According to the National Institute of Health, a body temperature of 95°F or lower in an older person can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.
Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia. Try to stay away from cold places, and pay attention to how cold it is where you are. You can take steps to lower your chance of getting hypothermia.
Here are some tips for keeping warm while you're inside:
Set your heat to at least 68–70°F. To save on heating bills, close off rooms you are not using. Close the vents and shut the doors in these rooms, and keep the basement door closed. Place a rolled towel in front of all doors to keep out drafts.
Make sure your house isn't losing heat through windows. Keep your blinds and curtains closed. If you have gaps around the windows, try using weather stripping or caulk to keep the cold air out.
Dress warmly on cold days even if you are staying in the house. Throw a blanket over your legs. Wear socks and slippers.
When you go to sleep, wear long underwear under your pajamas, and use extra covers. Wear a cap or hat.
Make sure you eat enough food to keep up your weight. If you don't eat well, you might have less fat under your skin. Body fat helps you to stay warm.
Drink alcohol moderately, if at all. Alcoholic drinks can make you lose body heat.
Ask family or friends to check on you during cold weather. If a power outage leaves you without heat, try to stay with a relative or friend.
Early signs of hypothermia:
Cold feet and hands
Puffy or swollen face
Shivering (in some cases the person with hypothermia does not shiver)
Slower than normal speech or slurring words
Being angry or confused
Later signs of hypothermia:
Moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
Stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
Slow, shallow breathing
Blacking out or losing consciousness
If you are having a hard time paying your heating bills, there are some resources that might help. Contact the National Energy Assistance Referral service at 1-866-674-6327 (toll-free; TTY, 1-866-367-6228) or email the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) project to get information about the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
For more information, visit: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cold-weather-safety-older-adults