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Hot Tubs for Seniors: Benefits, Dangers, Safety Tips & More!

Summary (TL;DR):

Before using hot tubs, seniors should always check with their doctors first. There are many documented benefits including reduced blood pressure, reduced stress, less arthritic pain, and better sleep. But the senior's overall safety is the most important thing.
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Ahhhh…. sometimes there is nothing better than a good soak in some hot water. Am I right? Even old muscles can benefit from soaking in a hot tub.

But, as we age, hot tub use is more dangerous because of medical conditions, mobility problems, and the risk of falls. So, based on my research, this article outlines the pros and cons to using hot tubs for seniors.

Of course, you should discuss this with your doctor or healthcare provider first. Especially if you take prescription medication or have any health concerns.

Read on to learn both sides of the equation when it comes to hot tubs for seniors and whether or not they should be a part of your life.

seniors in a hot tub

First, Should Seniors and the Elderly Use Hot Tubs?

There are actually several studies that suggest there are some very good potential health benefits from regularly spending time in a hot tub.

It doesn’t have to be a daily practice. But, enjoying a hot tub a few times a week or even a few times a month, can have some noticeable differences.

Melting Away Stress

The first obvious and major benefit is stress relief. Stress is an incredibly harmful thing. It has a strong physical effect on the body.

Even worse, we’ve all had those experiences where stress causes pain then pain causes more stress, which just further makes more pain. That’s a nasty circle to fall into, and so anything that can break the cycle is often going to be a plus.

Less Stress = Lower Blood Pressure

The stress relief isn’t just a feeling, either. The National Institute of Health (NIH) published an oft-cited study that shows just a mere 10 minutes in a hot tub cause many individuals between the ages of 46 and 83 to experience a very noticeable drop in blood pressure.

These weren’t minor drops, either. These were noticeable drops that often brought a blood pressure reading from hypertension down to a much healthier range.

So those in the hot tub not only felt better, but the numbers seemed to back up the fact that their health numbers were far better.

Reducing Muscle Tension

In addition to this, spending time in a hot tub is used as a way to help loosen sore muscles.

This can lower back pain related to tense muscles. Or, simply help reduce general pain that comes from sore or stressed muscles. Heat relaxes the muscles and getting heat via a hot tub provides a very relaxing moist heat that has some benefits.

Alleviating Arthritis Pain

Multiple studies from The Arthritis Foundation show that hot tub usage can help loosen stiff joints. This could even reduce pain that comes as a result of arthritis.

Benefits of Hot Tubs for Seniors

In summary, the pros of occasional hot tub use include:

  • Alleviate back pain
  • Loosen arthritic joints and help reduce arthritis based pain
  • Relax basic aches & pain
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce stress
  • Promote a fuller and more reinvigorating sleep

But, this doesn’t mean they are ok for all older people. Keep reading to learn more about some potential dangers.

close up of hot tub jets

OK, But Are There Negatives to Hot Tub Use?

There are some things to keep in mind when it comes to using hot tubs.

While I’m a big fan, and many others are too, they’re not for all seniors.

Physical Health Concerns

The sudden change in temperature can be a bit of shock to the system causing a temporary heart rate increase. And, for seniors who have very high blood pressure or very low blood pressure this can actually be dangerous.

If you have any blood pressure or heart rhythm problems, consult your doctor before even sticking a toe in a hot tub. Caution is always important.

Hot Tub Maintenance and Costs

There’s also the question of maintenance.

One part of having a hot tub is making sure it is properly maintained. Because hot tubs have a lot of heat and moisture, they are a breeding ground for bacteria if not properly cleaned.

That is a dangerous situation.

Hot Tub Safety Tips for Seniors

As much as I personally love a soak in the hot tub, there are still plenty of precautions I take to be on the safe side.

1. See a Doctor First

First of all if you’re not sure if you should use a hot tub or not, please, please, please see a doctor first! A pleasant experience is never worth risking your life over.

2. Install Safety Hand Rails

Second, if the hot tub you’re using (or buying) doesn’t come with safety hand rails, pay to get some installed! There’s never any reason to skip this part. We’ve all had plenty of slips or falls in life. Having that extra hand rail to steady yourself when the deck or surrounding area is slick could literally be a life-saver. This is just one of those small things that can make all the difference so there’s no reason not to!

3. Ease Into It

Also, don’t rush things. If you haven’t been in hot tubs very often or it has been a very long time, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. The first time you don’t have to stay more than 5-10 minutes and probably shouldn’t. You never need to stay more than 30 minutes. Spend enough time to enjoy yourself, to loosen up and relax, and don’t be afraid to leave the moment you feel uncomfortable (or ideally – before getting to that point)!

4. Never Use a Hot Tub Alone

Finally, don’t use a hot tub alone. Always have someone else there. First of all, a hot tub is a great experience to share. Second, this way if something goes wrong there is someone there to help. The buddy system works for so many things in life and soaking in a hot tub is another one of those times where this is also the case.

How to Safely Get in and Out of a Hot Tub

A lot of creating a safe environment around the hot tub is preparation. By making sure the hot tub is set up with steps, with supporting hand rails, with more than one safe point of entry and exit, you are making sure that there are plenty of options whenever you move in or out of the tub.

Knowing where all the safest spots are for getting in is very important. The next is to always be aware of the area. If you are getting into the hot tub and some other people have already gotten in first, you may want towels close by to wipe down the side and take care of any loose water so you’re not slipping as you get in.

Finally, don’t rush. The hot tub isn’t running anywhere so don’t be worried about taking your time and being cautious to be on the safe side of things. A major part of the hot tub experience is de-stressing and getting to relax so why rush things?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the Different Types of Hot Tubs?

While there are many different brands out there, most models of hot tubs are going to fall under one of two types: portable hot tubs or in-ground hot tubs. These can be made from a wide variety of materials and designs, as the supporting structure around a hot tub can vary immensely, as well.

These can be very different from one another and that makes it important to do a bit of research if you’re looking at buying a hot tub to make sure you get a senior-friendly design that is right for your needs and your mobility.

What are the Costs of Buying and Owning a Hot Tub?

The average cost of a hot tub up front, keeping in mind this can vary greatly depending on type, service, etc, is $3500 to $8000 up front during installation. After that large initial investment the expenses tend to be pretty nominal. The extra utility burden for keeping the water hot is about $22-35 a month on average, while the cost for chemical treatments, maintenance, and water change-outs every 2-3 months comes out to about $10-20 a month once you average it out over a year.

The filters of the hot tub need to be changed every 1-2 years and that will cost $50-75 a pop on average. The overwhelming cost is up front but if you decide you really do want a hot tub and are willing to make that investment, the rest of the expenses are quite mild and tame by comparison.

There is also likely to be an added insurance cost, but this is once again reasonable and it will be surprising if that is more than $20-30 a month.

What Conditions Can Be Helped by Hot Tubs?

As stated earlier, hot tubs have many potentially positive uses. The main ones are the ability to reduce stress, blood pressure, and pain. The fact that pain relief can come to those of us with arthritis or those of us who just have a lot of sore muscles makes this treatment even more appealing.

Less stress, better blood pressure, and better mobility is a great combination of benefits, and the fact they all come without pills is just an added bonus!

What Hot Tubs are Easiest to Get In and Out of?

There are some hot tubs that are a bit easier than others, but this can actually change quite a bit from year to year. There are models like the J-315 that was designed specifically with senior citizens in mind and therefore designed to be one of the easiest to get in or out of.

However, many models can be made better with the addition of things like steps, hot tub ladders, and added safety grips. Because of this it’s hard to nail down the best ones because many models can be made better. However with that being said, look at avoiding out of ground models that are tall on all sides with only one ladder that has to be climbed to get in. There’s not much that can be done to make those easier or safer, but most other models can be improved upon with a little TLC and some smart purchases.

What Type of Hot Tubs Are Best for Seniors?

The best thing here is to look for companies happy to customize. The more they are willing to work with you, the better your chance of getting a custom designed hot tub that is the perfect fit for your specific needs. If a company isn’t willing to customize anything, chances are they are not nearly as senior friendly.

As of this writing ThermoSpas, Marquis, Cal Spas, and Jacuzzi are all very popular names with good reputations and still have an openness to creating custom options to help you meet your needs. While these are always good places to start when you do your research, look for the people most willing to work with you. That almost always leads to a better final result.

Summary: So What’s This All Mean?

In short, this means that while a hot tub is going to be off-limits to some seniors with certain medical conditions, there are plenty of good reasons for the rest of us to possibly look at getting our own hot tub.

Aside from all the benefits mentioned, there is just something to be said about having a place right in your home where you can kick back and relax, and a good hot tub definitely gives you that!

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About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather | I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's.

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