BABY GRANDMA IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!
I doubt there’s much argument: the world is screwy–a mess–and the weather isn’t exempt. Especially recently, unusually cold weather has gripped much of the country. What are implications for older people?
- Bundle up: We’ve known since we were bundled up as little children that we had to wear different, warmer clothing. But did we know that loose–as opposed to tight–layers of clothing keep us warmer because of the air trapped between the layers? or that mittens are much warmer than gloves?
- Be alert–slick pavement: We learned to walk carefully on slippery, icy pavement, most likely when our young, supple little bodies slipped and fell–relatively close to the ground and were not as susceptible to the consequences of aging broken bones. Click the US News older adults guide, –dealing with cold weather.
- Over-exertion is bad: Children heard that older people shouldn’t over-exert themselves–something about the heart as I recall; but what exactly did that mean? In our younger days–at least mine–I happily shoveled snow for our next-door neighbors who I thought were old (50-60?), and thus could have heart problems if they shoveled. Would older people today find this act of kindness a sweet insult? (Read Mayo Clinic’s explanation of low temperatures’ impact on aging bodies…eg. narrowing blood vessels.)
- Older bodies lose heat faster than younger bodies. Older people tend to feel colder. Why?The fatty layer below the skin thins with age thus reducing the fat layer that helps conserve heat. When it thins, tolerance for cold decreases. A conversation about aging parents who stayed with their married daughter over Thanksgiving, elicited major complaining: Her parents raised the thermostat in her house to stay warm. The daughter “suffocated” throughout their visit because it was “intolerably hot.” Normal bodily changes can make older people feel colder. Is that a “heads-up” for us when we’re house-guests?
- Dress smart. Should we, older adults, “wear boots with non-skid soles even on short trips outside and make certain our walkway is clear and treated with sand or salt? If using a cane, do we make certain the rubber tip has been replaced before it has worn out? Some health professionals recommend using specialized tips for canes and walkers designed to provide extra traction on the ice…..” Good advice? It comes from US News’s Older Adults Guide To Cold Weather.
Many of us inching towards 80 don’t consider ourselves old and value staying healthy, staying mobile, and having independence. Sr. Advisor R, who you may recall lived in her home independently over 60 years (and died there at 101) had many wise sayings–this one jumps out at me: “Take care of yourself or you won’t be able to take care of anything else.“ Isn’t that what aging smart is all about?
* * *
Changes in the Body With Aging: Richard W. Besdine, MD, Greer Director, Division of Geriatrics and Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University
Cold Weather Safety for Older Adults: NIH–Nat’l Institute on Aging
Video: from AGE UK —How Older People are Affected by Cold Weather