Summary & Highlights
1. Elderly people are especially vulnerable to the cold. They need extra help staying warm, especially ones who live alone, are disabled, have chronic illnesses, or experiencing poverty or homelessness.
2. Ways to help keep seniors warm include providing adequate clothing and safe, reliable heat sources. You should also ensure their homes are insulated and they have access to hot meals.
3. Friends, family members, and other community members should check in on elderly parents and grandparents during cold weather and help them access resources like these.
Ways You Can Help Older Adults Stay Warm
Then, you can also remove layers as necessary to ensure temperature regulation during fluctuating temperatures throughout the day. Encourage seniors to incorporate this into their daily routine as temperatures decrease yearly.
Here are the critical layers:
- Base or Inner Layer: Thermal underwear or long johns – tops and bottoms – are a great first layer of clothing and help keep the body warm even when cold outside.
- Mid Layer: Next, add loose layers of sweaters, fleece sweatshirts, and light jackets for extra warmth and insulation. Use multiple layers if necessary.
- Outer Layer: A heavy waterproof coat or parka should be the final layer to protect yourself from the wind and cold outdoors.
- Top It Off: Adding a hat, gloves, face covering, and a scarf can help seal in the warmth and protect from the cold – even indoors.
Another option is battery-powered heated clothing, which uses small, rechargeable batteries to provide warm clothes with their own heat source. Heated vests, gloves, and socks are all available and can provide warmth even in frigid temperatures.
Finally, adding extra blankets to beds or chairs to serve as additional layers helps keep elderly warm, as can heated chairs and cushions.
How to Get the Right Warm Clothing for Older Adults
- Buttons, zippers, elastic waistbands, and stretchy fabrics are easy to add and remove.
- Lightweight sweaters, cardigans, and vests are great for layering.
- Breathable fabrics like cotton or wool help regulate the wearer’s body temperature.
- Bold colors and patterns are easier for seniors with vision impairments to recognize.
- Avoid items that are too tight or too loose for a comfortable fit and easy donning.
Sunlight: Nature’s Heater
Sunlight keeps older adults warm during winter by providing a natural heat source. The sun’s rays penetrate windows to create a warm and cozy atmosphere and might even reduce heating costs.
Sunlight helps prevent feelings of isolation and depression associated with the winter months. It is a necessary component of Vitamin D production for bone health. It reduces the greater risk of health problems related to cold weather.
The elderly can get more sunlight (and fresh air!) in the winter months by spending time outdoors when it is safe.
Taking a walk during the day can help to get natural sunlight and can also provide some exercise. Going to a park or driving to a local area with natural beauty can also provide sunlight.
If time outdoors is not an option, opening window coverings to let in natural light is another great way to get more sunlight.
Additionally, having a sunroom or other type of sun-filled room in the home can help to bring in more sunlight during the winter months.
Nutrition: Fueling The Body’s Furnace
Nutrition and body temperature are closely related in older people, as proper nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy body temperature.
Poor nutrition can decrease body temperature, as the body cannot generate enough energy to keep warm. This is particularly true in cold weather, as the body needs more energy to keep itself warm.
Additionally, inadequate nutrition can weaken the immune system, making older people more prone to health conditions associated with cold weather.
So, keeping healthy foods around the house is an important consideration.1
Other Tools for Preserving Body Temperature
Electric Heating Pads
Electric heating pads are an easy, safe, and convenient way to stay warm. They can be placed on bedding, couches, chairs, and other furniture to provide warmth.
Blankets are the “go-to” warming product and help preserve an older adult’s self-generated body heat. They are available in many different sizes, materials, and weights and can be used nearly anywhere. We have some blankets we recommend for the elderly if you’d like to see those.
Electric blankets generate their own heat and are available in full-sized and throw-sized options. But they do require access to power.
Wearable blankets with arm openings are useable as a layer of clothing and general blanket. Make sure your feet are clear if you walk around the house with one.
Fireplaces and Stoves
Fireplaces and stoves are excellent backup heat sources to stay warm, but proper safety precautions should always be followed.
Space heaters are a great way to provide localized heat. Portable space heaters are an economical and efficient way to keep smaller areas of a home warm and comfortable.
Use a fan heater to share the warmth around the room. Take precautions to reduce fire hazards. (See our recommended safe heaters for seniors.)
Wear Warm Socks
Wearing warm socks can help to keep your feet warm. Wool, cotton, and other types of thick socks are available in various colors, materials, and thicknesses. Choose gripper socks to reduce the real danger of a fall.
Foot warmers are small, easy-to-carry devices that look like slippers and can be heated to warm up cold feet.
A smart thermostat can be an excellent tool for older adults who have difficulty managing their own temperatures. Smart thermostats can control the temperature in a room and can also be monitored remotely by loved ones for added protection.
Heat packs are small and portable and can be placed on the body, under the arms, or on the lap.
Hot Water Bottles
Hot water bottles are an old-fashioned way to stay warm. Just fill them with hot water and take them wherever you go!
Heated Mattress Pads
Heatable mattress pads are placed underneath your sheets and provide different temperature settings without turning up the heat in the entire home.
Monitor Weather Forecast
Check your local weather forecast daily and prepare in advance based on upcoming temperatures and weather conditions.
An Emergency Plan
Have an emergency plan in case of cold season or medical emergencies. Ensure senior citizens have backup heat sources and a list of emergency contacts they can reach out to.
Tips for Providing a Warm Home for Elders
The elderly can enjoy the winter season without worrying about a cold house. Take the following steps to provide a comfortable and warm indoor environment.
1. Install window treatments on the living room or bedroom window to keep heat in, such as heavy drapes and blinds.
2. Rugs and carpets insulate the floor, helping warm your feet. Just make sure they are non-slip for safety.
3. Use space heaters in areas that need extra warmth.
4. Place extra blankets and throws on the furniture to add warmth.
5. Install weather stripping around windows and doors to seal any air leaks and prevent cold air from entering.
6. Set the thermostat on the central heating to a warmer setting during frigid weather. Use a programmable thermostat that can be monitored remotely via Wi-Fi.
7. Close the heating vents and doors to unused areas to save warm air for the actively used areas of the home.
8. A humidifier adds moisture to the air; moist air feels warmer on our skin than dry air.
9. Add extra insulation to the walls, crawl space, and attic to maintain indoor temperatures and reduce heating bills.
Ways to Keep Elderly People Warm in Bed
1. Use multiple layers of warm blankets, such as wool or fleece, to help lock in heat.
2. Wear thermal clothing, such as long johns or long-sleeved tops and bottoms, under nightgowns and pajamas.
3. Using electric blankets can provide additional warmth and comfort.
4. Placing an old-fashioned hot water bottle or heat pack in the bed can help keep the elderly warm.
5. Heated mattress toppers can provide additional warmth while allowing the older adult to remain comfortable.
6. Keeping the room dark can help keep the room’s temperature consistent.
7. Place draft stoppers or draft excluders at the base of doors and windows to prevent heat loss.
8. Use flannel sheets that hold heat better than standard sheets.
9. Use a ceiling fan in a clockwise direction to move warm air from the ceiling.
How to Keep the Elderly Warm in a Vehicle
As temperatures drop, it is essential to remember the elderly may be at increased risk of hypothermia and other cold weather medical issues while in a vehicle.
Keeping the elderly warm while in a car can be challenging, but it can be done with the proper preparation. Here’s how:
1. Warm up a blanket in your dryer and bring it to the car with you. Choose a blanket that is made of a material that is both warm and waterproof.
2. Wear a warm and waterproof hat and gloves to trap body warmth generally lost through the head and hands.
3. Turn the vehicle’s heat up while warming up the vehicle and heat up the interior.
4. Leave the vehicle running with the doors locked while parked if you are waiting in the car.
5. If your vehicle has heated seats, use them even if the weather is cool.
6. Heated seat cushions that plug into the vehicle are available for vehicles that don’t have built-in heated seats.
7. Fill up a rubber water bottle with hot water and hold it on your lap.
8. Park in a sunny spot with direct sunlight to help the car stay warm even when it’s not being used.
How to Keep Elderly Warm Outdoors
Older adults are at the greatest risk during cold weather when they participate in outdoor activities, especially for extended periods. If you start to get chills when outside, get inside immediately.
1. Wear multiple layers of clothing, such as long underwear, a fleece jacket, warm socks, and a winter coat.
2. Put on a hat, scarf, and gloves to help keep your head, neck, and hands warm and cover as much exposed skin as possible.
3. Wear waterproof and insulated winter boots to keep your feet dry and away from the cold, damp snow.
4. Use a blanket, battery-powered heating pad, or hot water bottle to stay warm while sitting outside on a cold day.
5. Drink warm beverages like hot cocoa, tea, or coffee.
6. Bring a hand warmer or heat pack to provide extra warmth.
7. Keep moving regularly to help keep your body temperature up.
8. Take breaks indoors to warm up and rest if possible.
Care Advice for Special Situations
Those who are frail due to age or disease may need extra assistance to stay warm. They may need help dressing correctly, having the proper clothing, and finding ways to stay warm. Blankets, heated chairs, and extra layers may be necessary.
Elderly with Limited Mobility
Older adults who struggle walking or standing may also need help staying warm. Heating pads and electric blankets can be helpful, as well as warm clothing and a regular exercise routine.
Be careful with cord placement on electric devices to reduce the chance of falls.
Elderly people who are bedridden need significant care to stay warm. They may need extra blankets, heated mattress pads, and caregivers’ assistance to help them change positions and layer clothing.
Elderly Living Alone
Elderly parents who live alone may need extra help staying warm. They may need assistance with shopping for warm clothing and blankets, as well as help with setting up heating systems and thermostats.
Maximizing the Benefits of Warm Clothing and Heating Devices
1. Choose clothing and warming accessories that fit correctly. Make sure they are the right size and shape for the wearer.
2. Purchase clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Choose items that are lightweight and comfortable.
3. Look for heating devices designed specifically for elderly people, such as adjustable thermostats, space heaters with automatic shut off, and electric throw blankets.
4. Have the heating devices installed by a professional to ensure they are safe and effective.
5. Make sure the elderly person has access to warm beverages and snacks throughout the day.
6. Encourage them to stay active and get some exercise to help them stay warm.
7. Check on elderly loved ones frequently to ensure they are implementing these steps and aren’t feeling isolated because of the cold weather.
8. Follow our winter safety tips to protect older adults from all winter weather hazards – not just temperature.
Infographic: 48 Ways to Keep the Elderly Warm
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