I was asked by Mom’s friend the other day ‘how old is too old to use a hot tub’?
Seems she had been talking to Mom and wanted to ease her aches and pains with her own hot tub, just like Mom does in ours.
I have to admit I hadn’t given a question like Hot Tub Age Restrictions too much thought and simply did not reply, but that question has been burrowing into my mind during wakeful moments of the night, so I thought it was about time my thoughts were aired on the subject.
It is perhaps better to answer the question a little differently.
If your body is relatively fit and mobile, there is no reason why you should have an age limit on enjoying the many benefits of using your own hot tub.
It is more down to your mobility and having access to your hot tub.
First of all, let’s consider the varieties of hot tubs available.
If you have the less-expensive types of hot tub, like the Coleman SaluSpa Inflatable Hot Tub above, you will no doubt need to climb over the sides and then sit on the floor of your hot tub. So if you have difficulty getting in, consider how much more difficult it is to get out when you can’t raise yourself from a sitting position with legs out straight too readily.
A simple test for this is to sit flat on the floor and see if you can stand easily without using your arms too much.
Let’s say you have mobility issues and can’t take your weight on your arms or maybe get your legs underneath you to allow you to stand. Ok, your weight is supported when submerged, but as soon as you rise out of the water you become a dead weight on your joints once again.
Fine. You think your aches and pains will be gone after spending time in a hot tub, so that will make it easier to climb out, surely?
But the aches and pains come in three ways.
• Aching muscles – simple overuse and strain
• Aching bones – wear and tear through aging
• Aching tendons – wear and tear through aging
Relief of Aching Muscles in a Hot Tub
With the first, our aching muscles, a twenty minutes/half hour soak in a hot tub works wonders at relaxing your body.
Maybe you’ve been gardening too much or overdone a gym session and your body desperately needs relief and relaxation, or maybe you have a hectic lifestyle needing concentration all the time, then a hot tub works wonders at calming everything down and soothing your stresses as your mind wanders into deep, unwinding warmth and tranquillity.
Remember how, with a small child, we were advised to give them a warm bath and warm milk before bed to try to get them to sleep through the night. That warmth and comfort put their body (and mind) into deeper relaxation and sleep mode while their digestion works on the milk, tiring them even further.
After all, nothing much has changed now we are older. We have nothing more than mature bodies to care for as we age and the same results still apply.
The other two, however, are a different kettle of fish altogether.
Aching bones occur after breaks and fractures happened long ago, not always, but some pain can remain. As we get older our balance can be affected, causing recent falls and breaks, and if you think about this with slippery feet climbing out of a hot tub, then you seriously have to wonder if it is all worthwhile, but there are other safer alternatives.
On top of this is the abrasive action on joints as flexibility and joint tissue starts to fail due to aging and this is aggravated by certain muscles working harder trying to balance your body into the right posture, even though you are not aware of it as it happens over years.
This is added muscle and sinew strain that can be relieved by hot tub usage, but the joint erosion cannot, so the pain returns a mere twenty minutes/half hour after you get out of the hot tub.
It has to be said the weightlessness whilst in the water also helps considerably, but once you are out, it all returns with a vengeance.
In the same way, inflamed joints, rheumatics, and the likes can also be relieved by the heat and relaxation, but the original problem of joint wear still persists and it takes some time for you to become aware of it once again.
This is because blood flows more freely in a warmer environment, meaning your body’s white blood cells can repair some of the faults in your joints more naturally.
True, if you use a hot tub late in the day, have a quick shower to wash off the chlorine and then pop straight to bed, you can sleep all through the night, rather than being woken by pain constantly through the night and in the morning be as grumpy as hell because you are not rested properly.
Aching Tendons – what is meant by that?
When tendons are taught, they tend to shrink in length – a bit like body-building where muscles are deliberately under tension and become shortened and appear bigger. This shortening of the tendons happens with time and simply pulls on your muscles, putting them under strain, or alternatively pulling on the limb (a leg or a finger – it is still a limb) and this restricts the movement of joints in that limb.
Once they are shortened you’ll need surgery to split those tendons to allow them to stretch once more, which can be painful.
A common result of this is what is known as Dupuytren’s contracture, where finger tendons are shortened owing to having to hold smaller objects for prolonged periods and you cannot straighten your fingers out. The more you do it, the worse it becomes.
This happens on all tendons throughout our bodies if joints are not flexed frequently.
Some people are more susceptible to this condition than others.
When you use a hot tub, these are relaxed and this gives you some relief especially around the larger joints, but not long after being out of the hot tub, you are back to square one, unless you make a point of flexing those joints as much as possible while you are in the hot tub or even as soon as you are out of the heat, without it being too painful, can make it so much better in the long run.
But now, getting down to the right hot tub for you.
They can be divided up in two ways.
Inflatable hot tubs as shown above, generally have soft inflatable sides that can support your weight to help you enter and leave the water, with usually a flat bottom, inflatable again to provide a bit of comfort, and it is the fact it is flat that limits older people from using hot tubs like this.
If you can get over the side by sitting on the side and swiveling your feet into the water, then fine, provided you have good balance.
An alternative to this is steps, either only on the outside the hot tub with storage cupboards included, or like a short ladder with a hand-rail attached, sitting inside and outside to allow you over the wall.
Both require you to sit on the bottom, but as has been said, if you have difficulty standing up from that position, then inflatable hot tubs should be disregarded as unsuitable.
However, there are a few inflatable hot tubs with bench seating built into their structure that would allow a better exit to be achieved.
These give more height for climbing out, but their failure is when you are seated, you have no depth of water around you,
and don’t confuse these with the seating that comes as extras (as above) which are only suitable for people of shorter stature and children to keep their heads above water.
Generally speaking, this is not the usual story, so people with mobility issues tend to go in for hard sided portable hot tubs where the acrylic sides are stiffer and these usually have seating or captain’s chairs built-in. Some even have loungers built-in and can accommodate up to eight or more people.
Check out our Hard Sided Portable Hot Tub Blog Page for much better descriptions.
These are suitable for people with mobility problems as the buoyancy of the water supports them, allowing them to move around more easily, plus many varieties have grab rails attached to help even further with entry and egress.
The beauty of it is some of these hard sided hot tubs can be almost as inexpensive to purchase and own as some of the better soft sided varieties.
Confidence is the biggest issue regarding hot tub use with older people, but there are others.
Apart from the safety aspect of getting in and out, there is also the issue of whether or not they will get value for money – timewise. Would it be too much trouble to set one up? What will the neighbors think? What’s that about chemicals? What do they cost to run?
You need to remember, the older you are, the more you tend to remember prices from long ago, and everything is so expensive nowadays.
‘I’m not paying that for something I’ll never use!’ I can hear Mom saying.
I’ve even thought that myself, and I’m only half Mom’s age.
One of many other options is to choose a freestanding water jetted and bubble bathtub to replace an existing bath, that way providing privacy, but they would still need to be able to get in and out of the bathtub themselves.
A further option, if this proves too difficult, is to use a walk-in bathtub. That way they get the benefits of a hot tub specifically for themselves, regardless of whether they can get in and out of one or not.
Generally, these are acrylic, with a door on the side, meaning they need to enter, shut the door and turn on the taps to fill them to the desired level.
That’s perhaps the boring part.
Any water inside presses against the door and its seals to keep in the water, so leaks are overcome and the drain at the bottom, either gravity fed or pumped, is below the door level, so you will not be wetting your floor too much when you step out.
Most have seating to one side as you enter, meaning not using too much water and many have various controls for temperature, water depth, bubbles and jetting, shower and other safety measures to ensure you get the best relaxing bath possible.
They can be installed to replace an existing bath, so do not take up much room.
Purchase wisely; they can be a little expensive if you go in for all the bells and whistles, but the basic ones are designed to allow people with physical difficulties access to a hot bath without too much trouble.
One thing you need to understand is if you like your gadgets and there’s a power cut if you have pumped wastewater disposal, then you may be sat in cooling water for some time, but I am sure many varieties will have a backup power source included – it’s worth checking, especially if yours is installed in a cellar.