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Why Are Older Individuals Always Cold?

Jul 24, 2022

Ever wonder why so many retirees move to Florida? It’s not just because of Disney World. As it turns out, there’s a reason why Granddad wears two sweaters in June. Here’s why older individuals often find themselves feeling cold even with the thermostat turned up.

The Short Answer

As we grow older, the layer of fat beneath our skin starts to thin, providing less insulation to keep body heat from escaping our bodies. Much like a thin cotton shirt does less to protect you from a brisk breeze than a fleece jacket does, there’s less to keep you from feeling chilly in lower temperatures. A decrease in circulation is another factor, which is why many people struggle with keeping their extremities warm– a pair of fuzzy socks might be the perfect winter holiday gift for loved ones who are young at heart.

Health Conditions

Along with thinning hair and multiplying wrinkles comes an inherent risk for more health conditions, and feeling perpetually cold can be a side effect. The drugs that treat these diseases can also cause this through decreased heart rates (less circulation and therefore blood flow to extremities like your hands and feet) or relaxing blood vessels (which causes heat loss). Diabetes, high cholesterol, kidney disease, thyroid issues, and other problems are associated with this as well. Pretty much any condition that affects blood flow (AKA circulation) fits the bill, so it’s a good idea to mention a persistent inability to stay warm to your doctor just in case.

Interestingly, feeling cold all the time can be the result of your body working against your own comfort. Anemia, which comes into play when there aren’t enough red blood cells in your body to bring oxygen where it needs to go, is one example. To make up for the condition, oxygen-rich red blood cells concentrate around your vital organs, including your brain and heart. Unfortunately, this leaves you feeling pretty chilly in the meantime, even as your body works to keep things running smoothly. It’s sort of like coughing when you have a cold– it doesn’t feel great, but your body is actually attempting to dispel harmful particles from your lungs and throat.

In Summary

Long story short, a more prominent susceptibility to the cold is just one of many side effects of growing older. While some occurrences can be linked to health conditions, feeling chilly in the midst of summer is by no means a reason to worry. Check in with your doctor if it becomes a significant problem, but in and of itself, feeling colder as the years pass is not a health risk and probably won’t require you to swallow a pill every morning– it’s as normal as your hair turning gray or developing deeper smile lines. To learn more, read this article by The New York Times.

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