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What Is the Ideal Room Temperature for an Elderly Person?

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

With winter approaching, heating and energy bills are a hot topic once again. It’s helpful that the cost of energy is set to be lower in winter 2023 than the previous winter due to a new Ofgem price cap. However, the government has ended some schemes for financial support with heating bills, so this lack of support may cancel out any benefits from lower energy prices.

What’s more, the cost of living crisis hasn’t yet abated, so many people in the UK will still be looking to economise anywhere possible – including on heating bills.

So, if you’re an older person or living in a household with an elderly loved one, how much can you turn down the heating before there are health risks? And what is the ideal room temperature for an elderly person?

In this piece, we’ll delve into the factors involved in heating an elderly person’s home, including ideal room temperatures, minimum temperatures and the surprisingly dangerous health effects of overly chilly rooms.

What temperature should a room be for an elderly person?

Experts including the UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office give us a starting point for deciding on the ideal room temperature for elderly UK residents. Along with the World Health Organisation, they say that the minimum room temperature should be 18° Celsius, which about 64° Fahrenheit.

That being said, the question is a little more complex than it seems.

Overall, rooms used by an elderly person shouldn’t be lower than 18° Celsius. But this is just a minimum threshold – the minimum temperature isn’t always the ideal temperature. It also appears that living and sleeping areas might benefit from different temperatures, and some older people may need more warmth if they have specific health conditions.

What temperature should a room be for an elderly person if it’s a living area like a kitchen, sitting room or bathroom?

The ideal temperature for living areas may be slightly higher than 18°C. Age UK recommends that elderly people’s living areas should be heated to 21°C (70°F).

A systematic review by the World Health Organisation also found that some groups benefited from temperatures higher than 18°C. For example, a study found that older people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) had better health outcomes when their living areas were heated to 21°C.

What is the ideal room temperature for an elderly person in a room where they’re sleeping?

The minimum of 18°C may be more appropriate for an elderly person’s bedroom, since people tend to need cooler temperatures to sleep.

What are the health impacts of overly low room temperatures?

It’s not just about comfort – room temperatures really matter. A range of expert sources emphasise that serious health effects can occur when elderly people’s environments are too cold. And these effects aren’t always what you’d expect when you think of cold weather risks…

Higher blood pressure

Many older people experience hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. It’s widely known that having high blood pressure raises your risks of serious conditions such as strokes, vascular dementia, heart attacks and more.

But it’s not so widely known that lower room temperatures are associated with higher blood pressure, while warmer room temperatures are associated with lower blood pressure.

This means that an elderly person in an overly cold room has increased risks of those dangerous conditions like heart attacks.

According to NHS North England, heart attacks and strokes increase directly after periods of severely cold weather.

Keeping to the ideal room temperature for elderly UK residents – 18° Celsius – helps guard against this risk. Ensuring that elderly people aren’t exposed to severely cold temperatures outside is also important.

Respiratory or breathing conditions

About one in five people in the UK has a respiratory disease, and nearly one in ten people over age 70 has COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

Low room temperatures can also have a serious impact on respiratory health, meaning that appropriate heating is even more important for elderly people who already have some kind of lung or breathing condition.

So, what is the ideal room temperature for elderly UK respiratory disease patients?

NHS England recommends 21°C for living areas, while 18°C seems to be fine for bedrooms.

When temperatures are too low, elderly people with respiratory conditions may find it harder to breathe, as cold air makes the lungs and airways tighten up so that less air can pass through.

As with blood pressure, respiratory conditions can grow worse in cold outdoor temperatures as well as indoor ones. So, during a cold snap elderly people with respiratory conditions should be especially careful to stay warm outdoors as well as indoors and limit their exposure to very cold air.

Arthritis

Many elderly people suffer from arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of arthritis.

The connection between weather (including temperature) and arthritis pain isn’t fully understood, although many elderly arthritis patients do report that they experience more joint pain during cold snaps or periods of extreme heat.

Ultimately, if an elderly person with arthritis is in a room at 18°C and experiencing joint pain, it might be worth bumping up the thermostat a degree or two to see if that helps.

Stability

Another reason that cold room temperatures are a concern for the elderly is that older people may have less ability to detect changes in temperature. Older people may delay getting up to get a blanket if they struggle with walking, while elderly people with dementia may just be unable to recognise that they are uncomfortable at a cold temperature.

Stability in cold rooms can be a concern too. A 2014 scientific study found that elderly women had decreased lower-body strength and speed in a 15°C room. Getting extremely cold can also cause numbness in the extremities or shivering, both of which can negatively impact an older person’s stability. Patients with arthritis who are experiencing increased stiffness may also be less able to move around safely.

For elderly people who are concerned about their stability in colder weather, a personal alarm with automatic fall detection may be a good choice for peace of mind. If a fall does occur, the alarm will call for help with no need for any input from the user.

A home alarm like the SureSafe Guardian Plus also offers temperature alerts, ensuring that friends and family are contacted if rooms become too cold.

How can elderly people ensure they are staying warm in winter?

Although room temperatures still shouldn’t go below 18°C (unless a doctor has instructed otherwise), there are additional steps that older people can take to keep their homes warm while energy is costly and stay warm if that temperature still feels cold.

Multiple layers of clothing can trap heat more effectively than a single layer. Closing off and minimally heating unused rooms such as guest rooms can also help with bills (although rooms shouldn’t be left entirely unheated, as this can increase problems like damp and mould, which can also cause illnesses).

Lastly, it’s always a good idea to check your home’s energy efficiency if you haven’t already to ensure that heat isn’t escaping around windows, for example. And closing the curtains after night falls can also prevent heat escaping through the glass.

Staying safe in cold weather with SureSafe

Paradoxically, one of the recommended ways for elderly people to stay warm during cold weather is to exercise. In addition to the health effects already explored, this is just another reason that older people’s homes should be appropriately heated – they will feel more able to move around rather than feeling forced to stay still under a blanket.

But understandably, older people may be reluctant to move around in colder weather if they feel that intense cold is worsening their joint pain or stiffness or otherwise impacting their mobility – or if they’re worried about a slip or fall on ice outside.

Mobility aids like canes and walkers can help. Ensuring that seniors are wearing shoes with good grips can also guard against falls.

An additional step that can offer peace of mind for those concerned about falling is a personal alarm. SureSafe is a market leader in personal alarms for the elderly, offering trusted and affordable personal alarms that will ensure help is on the way for an older person who needs it.

With 24/7 monitoring, an elderly person can feel assured that help will be on the way if they fall at night. Or a mobile alarm with GPS tracking can offer cold weather help even outside of the home, which means help can be on the way in case of other cold-weather emergencies like a fall on ice.

To chat with us about how personal alarms can help keep you or an elderly loved one safe during cold snaps, you can get in touch with our team of experts at 0800 112 3201 or through our live chat, or you can request a call back if you prefer.

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