Firsthand | experiences with aging

By Ron Anderson

Do you often feel cold when others don’t seem to notice the chill? Do you find yourself putting on two jackets when others feel fine with one? At the age of 78 I started feeling cold most of the time. When I put the problem to my doctor, who is a bit overweight, he joked that not all of us are lucky enough to have a layer of fat to help us keep warm. 

Upon further research I discovered that abnormal sensitivity to cold temperatures is called “cold intolerance” and may be due to low metabolism, especially insufficient production of thyroid hormones. Or, it may be due to Raynaud’s disease, a disorder affecting circulation, especially in the fingers and toes, or even anemia, which yields a low red blood cell count.

Eventually my doctor ran about a dozen different blood tests to determine whether or not I had any of these conditions, and sure enough I have a type of anemia often found among those my age. He seemed really happy to have uncovered the problem even though it lacks a cure. 

I used to feel comfortable in a 72-degree room, but now I need it to be at least 79 or 80 degrees to keep from shivering. However, my wife has a normal “internal” thermostat. This has led to great training in compromise: sometimes we work in separate rooms that can be individually heated; other times, we set the temperature to a midpoint.

After a few months of working out these compromises, it dawned on me that being very cold is a lot like feeling mild or chronic pain. And, just as mindfulness can be used to ignore pain, if I think of shivering as mild pain, I can make the cold, in effect, go away. Fortunately, I already had a mindfulness meditation practice. And what better place to practice acceptance of extreme cold than Minnesota?