The best winter clothes for the elderly provide warmth and safety.
Older adults are at increased risk from cold temps during the winter.
Adaptive winter clothing for the elderly allows seniors with reduced mobility or cognition to dress and adjust their temperature.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather – only bad clothing.” This Norwegian adage is especially apt when choosing the best winter clothes for the elderly.
Dressing for winter presents an extra challenge. Cold temperatures, ice, and snow make winter clothes for the elderly especially important.
Choosing suitable clothing will keep you warm, healthy, and safe.
Why Is It Important for Seniors To Stay Warm in Winter?
Nobody wants to be cold or wet. For seniors, dressing for warmth during fall and winter is essential for staying healthy and injury-free. Older adults face different risks in cold weather.
Weakened Immune System
As you age, your immune system deteriorates and is slower to recognize viruses and bacteria. This slows the response time, increasing your risk of getting sick.
You feel cold on a frigid day. However, you may not realize that even slightly lower temperatures put you at risk of hypothermia: a dangerously low body temperature.
Older adults lose body heat faster than younger adults. A chill sometimes becomes a serious problem before you know what’s happening, increasing your risk of heart disease and kidney or liver damage.
The risk of cold isn’t just outdoors; seniors may lose body heat inside a house that’s even slightly chilly. Hypothermia causes confusion, drowsiness, and even death if left untreated.
Seniors who have arthritis find their pain and stiffness worsen in colder temperatures. Wearing warm clothing keeps your joints warm and flexible, making you more comfortable.
It may also be more challenging to dress when your arthritis flares up, so clothing that’s easy to put on and remove makes staying warm and comfortable a cinch.
Cold weather worsens chronic respiratory problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which are more common among seniors.
For people with COPD, cold air may trigger spasms in the lungs, creating symptoms similar to an asthma attack, says pulmonologist Rachel Taliercio, DO at Cleveland Clinic. “You might be more breathless, feel out of breath, you might cough or start to wheeze. You also may feel a bit of tightness in the chest,” Dr. Taliercio says. “All of these can be signs that you should get indoors.”
Choosing the Best Winter Clothing for Seniors
The best winter clothes for seniors are warm, adaptable, easy to put on and remove, and don't restrict mobility. There are many reliable choices for winter clothing. Consider these factors when selecting the items you need most.
Regarding cold-weather clothing, the best fabric options are those that provide warmth, insulation, and breathability.
Wool is an excellent insulator with lofty fibers that trap air and heat close to your body. It wicks away moisture and is odor-resistant.
Cashmere is a luxurious fiber that’s soft, lightweight, and warm. It’s also hypoallergenic and breathable, making it comfortable to wear.
Silk has a reputation for its luxuriously smooth texture and insulation properties. Silk is an excellent fiber for a base layer against your skin because it wicks moisture and is hypoallergenic.
Fleece is a synthetic fabric that’s soft, lightweight, and warm. It wicks sweat and moisture away from the body while circulating air through the fibers. Jackets, hats, and gloves are frequently made with fleece.
Down is the fluffy underlayer of a waterfowl bird's feathers. It’s a natural insulation material that’s lightweight, compressible, and warm, providing excellent insulation while still allowing for breathability.
Synthetic Insulation Materials
Synthetic insulation materials – known as brands like Thinsulate or PrimaLoft – are extremely warm. Commonly found as fillers for jackets and vests, synthetic materials are lightweight and water-resistant.
People with physical disabilities, mobility issues, cognitive challenges, and sensory sensitivities should opt for adaptive clothing. Older adults often benefit from adaptive clothing since they may be unable to manipulate closures like buttons and zippers or lack the range of motion needed to dress.
Look for adaptive clothing that resembles regular attire but offers ease and comfort. Open-back shirts, extra-wide slip-on slippers and shoes, easy-snap pants, and wrap-around skirts and dresses are easy to put on and take off. This clothing frequently utilizes magnetic, snap-on, or Velcro closures.
Safety might not be the first thing you think of when you choose your clothing, but seniors are at risk of unnecessary injuries related to their apparel.
Consider the following statistics:
Three million older people visit emergency departments for fall injuries each year, and over 800,000 end up in the hospital. Falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries and the cause of over 95 percent of hip fractures.
Shoes, slippers, and socks with slip-resistant soles help prevent trips and falls. Clothing that is too large, loose, or long might catch on furnishings or cause a tripping hazard.
Tight, constricting clothing is another risk for seniors. Your circulation may become impaired as you age, and tight clothing restricts blood flow.
Seniors account for 77 percent of deaths from clothing fires. The most common causes of clothing catching fire are a cooking flame, an open fire, or a space heater. Loose clothing catches fire easily, so avoid excessively baggy clothing.
Dressing for Warmth Indoors
It may seem like you don’t need to dress for warmth indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. However, seniors don’t regulate their body temperature as well as younger people, and even slightly chilly temperatures take a toll on your health. Choose easily adjustable clothing.
Opt for Layering
Layering is the best way to stay warm in the winter and to adapt to changing indoor temperatures. Consider a breathable layer — like a silk or merino t-shirt — under a more generous insulating layer such as a sweater or fleece jacket. Layering gives you the flexibility to add or remove clothing to stay comfortable.
Try Before You Buy
Try on winter clothes with the items you plan to wear underneath to ensure they fit and are comfortable when layered.
Look for clothing that’s easy to wear and has fasteners that are large and easy to manipulate. If your dress is difficult to put on or take off, you won’t be able to easily adjust it for changing temperatures.
The Pembroke Fleece Cardigan features easy-to-fasten snaps and roomy pockets.
Mobility Is Important
Choose clothes that don’t impede your mobility. Sometimes seniors have trouble moving around in heavy or bulky winter clothes, so search for clothes that provide warmth without sacrificing mobility. Opt for stretchy fabrics and lightweight garments. The Pembroke Women’s Two Piece Sweatsuit is a reliable choice for ease and mobility.
Don’t Forget About Safety
Shoes, slippers, or socks with non-slip soles or good traction help prevent slips and falls.
Easy On, Easy Off
A cape makes it easy to adjust your temperature without changing clothing. The Granny Jo Products Fleece Cape is warm, soft, and easy to wear.
Keep Your Legs and Feet Warm
Your legs and feet might become cold before the rest of your body, affecting your walking. Choose insulated socks or slippers to keep your feet and toes cozy. An additional option is microwavable slippers. They only take a few minutes to heat up but continue to provide gentle heat for hours.
Throw a cover over your legs while sitting; the Granny Jo Products Lightweight Wheelchair Blanket is a very warm option.
All Over Warmth
When you’re relaxing in a chair or bed, a lap blanket or throw is a great source of all-over warmth. This Catalonia Sherpa Wearable Blanket Poncho has a neck opening for use as a poncho. It also makes a cozy sherpa blanket.
Don’t Forget Sleepwear
When you go to sleep, wear warm pajamas and use extra covers. Try wearing a cap if your sleeping space is very chilly.
Even when you’re staying indoors, dress warmly on cold days. Your body temperature can drop before you realize it. Stay safe and healthy throughout winter by choosing comfortable and warm clothing.
Staying Warm Outdoors
Since seniors feel the cold more than younger folks, bundling up when the temperature drops is critical. Plus, dressing for outdoor weather is about more than just the cold.
Moisture makes a cold day feel even colder – whether from rain, humidity levels, or sweat. When moisture evaporates, it creates a cooling effect. If you’re wet, this cooling process happens on the skin.
To prevent this, wear a base layer that wicks sweat away from your body. Look for a waterproof outer layer, such as a rain jacket. Built-in vents or breathable fabric is crucial for sweat to evaporate.
Block the Wind
Even if the temperature isn’t that low, a cold wind makes your time outside feel miserable. Your body has a thin layer of warm air under your clothing that insulates you from the cold, but wind can blow it away. A windproof outer layer keeps this warmth next to your skin.
Head to Toe Clothing Options
The following winter essentials for the elderly will help you stay toasty warm:
Warm, Insulated Jackets
Look for a thick, warm, and insulated jacket to protect against the cold.
Fleece-Lined Leggings or Pants
Fleece liners are reliable options for seniors who want to stay warm and comfortable. The soft lining provides insulation and the stretchy material allows freedom of movement.
Designed to trap body heat against your skin and keep you warm, thermal underwear provides an extra insulation layer under your regular clothing. Thermal underwear is occasionally known as long underwear or a base layer.
Feet get cold quickly in winter and are difficult to warm up. This issue is much worse for the elderly, whose hearts must work much harder than younger adults to pump blood to the feet. Wool or fleece socks are thicker and warmer than regular socks.
Slip-Resistant Shoes or Boots
Good traction on your shoes reduces your risk of slips and falls on icy or wet surfaces. Look for shoes with non-slip soles, a secure fit, and proper ankle support.
You lose 40-45 percent of your body heat through your head, so don’t forget to cover it up! A traditional cap looks nice but only covers the top of the head. A knitted beanie wraps close to the head and down over the ears, keeping your whole head warm.
Hands are often the most exposed part of the body, and your hands get colder faster as you age. Similar to the feet, once cold, the hands are difficult to warm up. Modern gloves offer insulation, heat-reflecting layers, or rechargeable heating elements. Stick some hand warmers in your pockets to warm your hands when they get too cold.
Keep that drafty chill off your neck with a snug scarf. A rechargeable heated scarf is delightfully warm!
Once you come inside to the warmth, remove your outer layers so your skin doesn’t become sweaty. Make sure to change your clothes right away if they’re wet.
Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter
The best clothing items for older adults are warm, comfortable, and easy to put on and take off. Shoes or slippers should provide reliable traction to reduce the risk of falls. Layering is your friend because it allows you to add or remove clothing as needed to stay comfortable.
When you dress for chilly, cold, or damp days, look for winter clothing that suits your style and protects you from the cold.
Staying warm and adequately dressed during winter reduces your risk of illness and injury. Stay healthy this winter with the best winter clothing!