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Thermostat Wars: Keeping Your Cool When Your Elders are Cold

Five Reasons Why Grandma is Always Chilly


It’s 90 degrees outside and you’re headed to your parents’ house to be sure they’re staying cool in the heat. When you arrive, sporting your coolest sundress, you find Mom and Dad sitting comfortably in front of the television, unseasonably clad in their signature sweaters and cozy slippers.

Strange as it may seem to you, the situation is quite common. Due to a number of possible factors, including aging itself, older adults often feel cold, even when others are seeking relief from the heat.

Aside from the obvious solutions of putting on more clothes and wrapping up in blankets, finding the underlying cause to why Grandma is always chilly might also help. Here are a few things that might be contributing to the problem, and what can be done about it.


If a body isn’t getting enough iron or B12, it might not be producing enough red blood cells – the cells needed to carry blood and oxygen to the hands and feet. That lack of oxygen can result in cold toes and chilly fingers.

A doctor can diagnose anemia with a blood test. You also can add iron and B12 to your diet by eating lean meats, eggs, leafy greens like spinach, and seafood.

Thyroid trouble

The hormones produced by the thyroid help the body to control its metabolism. A person with hypothyroidism doesn’t produce enough hormone, which can cause a slowed metabolism.

The risk of thyroid trouble increases with age and is especially prevalent in women. Experts at the American Thyroid Association believe as many as 1 in 4 nursing home patients has undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

Along with feeling cold, other symptoms of hypothyroidism include constipation, fatigue, itchy skin and depression.

If you suspect your loved one might have a thyroid problem, see a doctor for a blood test and medication.

Ask For Seconds

As people age, they often eat less. This lack of calories can lead to a person feeling cold, for two main reasons.

  1. A body that takes in too few calories develops a slowed metabolism, which means the body isn’t working as hard to burn off the calories it has taken in. Like a fire without wood to burn doesn’t give off heat, neither does a body without food.
  2. Weight loss leads to loss of heat-producing muscle, as well as the fat layer under the skin. That fat layer plays an important role in keeping us warm. Without it, the chill sets in.

You can help yourself or a loved one speed up metabolism by eating small, calorie-rich meals throughout the day. Choose foods that have plenty of protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates. Exercise also helps to get metabolism moving.


Lack of water in the body can lead to many serious problems, including loss of the body’s ability to maintain its temperature. Dehydration also slows down metabolism, which we already have determined can cause people to feel cold.

You can fight off dehydration, and that chill, by sipping on a warm beverage such as herbal tea or warm water with lemon.

Keep Your Cool

When temperatures spike and the humidity rises, it’s important to check up on elderly loved ones. But when you do so, expect that their comfortable temperature far exceeds your own.

Wear cool clothing and take along a cool drink when it’s time to visit. Keep a fan at your loved one’s home that can keep you cool without making them uncomfortable.

Most importantly, resist the urge to tell them how uncomfortably hot you are. The important thing is that they are safe and comfortable in their own home.

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