What Are Normal Vital Signs for Seniors?

By Michelle Cemental

What are vital signs? Vital signs provide an indication of your senior's most essential bodily functions. The standard measurements used in taking vital signs are the respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, and pulse rate. The normal range for each vital sign is dependent on your age. so, what are the normal vital signs for a senior?


Respiratory Rate

Your respiratory rate, or breathing rate, indicates the level of oxygen in your blood. The respiratory rate allows doctors to look for any indication of respiratory dysfunction and whether a senior is in an acidotic state, meaning there is too much hydrogen ion concentration in the blood. Because a senior's respiratory rate can indicate serious medical events, it's an important measure of health.

To measure respiration rate, simply count the number of times the chest rises in a one-minute period. The respiratory rate should be taken at rest to be most accurate. If a senior is still tired from climbing the stairs or walking to the office, it's best to wait until their rate has settled.

While doctors or nurses take the respiratory rate of an elderly person, they will often listen for wheezing or other abnormal sounds. They may also observe muscle tightening in the neck or any pain or discomfort while breathing.

Normal Respiratory Rate for Elderly: 12 to 18 breaths per minute

This vital sign doesn't usually change with age. However, lung function, or how well you're breathing, decreases slightly as you get older.


An elevated temperature can be an indication of inflammation or systematic infection, also referred to as fever or hyperthermia. Hypothermia or a lower than normal body temperature is also closely watched by medical personnel.

Normal Temperature for Elderly: 97.8 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit

It does become more difficult for your body to control its temperature as you age. You may find that it's harder to stay warm due to a decrease in body fat. Aging also decreases the body's ability to sweat, putting you at greater risk of heatstroke, since you can't tell if you're body's getting overheated.

The good thing is body temperature can easily be measured at home with any number of different thermometers. We recommend using a forehead thermometer as it's easy to use and gives you reading almost instantly. 

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a vital sign taken to detect the existence of hypertension or hypotension.  It is measured using an electronic blood pressure monitor.

The reading consists of 2 numbers: the higher number, systolic pressure, is the measure of pressure within the artery when the heart contracts. The lower number, diastolic pressure, is the measurement of pressure when the heart is at rest. These norms should not be based on single testing but should be averaged over several times.

Hypertension is considered to be any measurement higher than 140/90 mmHg. Hypotension is any blood pressure reading below 90/60 mmHg.

Normal Blood Pressure for Elderly: 120/80 mmHg or below (Pre-hypertension: 121 to 139 mmHg)

You may become dizzy when standing up quickly due to a sudden drop in blood pressure, and the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases as you age.

It's a good idea to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis by a medical professional. You can also check your own pressure at home using a wireless upper arm cuff, although this is no substitute to having it checked by a doctor.

RELATED CONTENT: 10 Foods that Lower Blood Pressure

Pulse Rate

The pulse rate indicates the rate at which the heart beats while pumping blood through the arteries. You can measure your pulse rate at home in one of two ways. One way is to place your index and third fingers to the side of your windpipe on your neck. The other is to place the same two-finger along the radial artery, the one nearest your thumb, on your wrist. In either case, you'll need to count the number of heartbeats you feel for fifteen seconds and multiply that number by four to get the number of beats per minute. If you aren't able to find your pulse manually, you can always try a fingertip pulse monitor

Normal Heart Rate for Elderly: 60 to 100 beats per minute

Rates that exceed or do not meet this range may indicate problems in the body. Since the heart is such a crucial component of the human system, paying special attention to this organ is important. As you grow older, your heart rate remains about the same; however, it may take your heart rate longer to increase when you exercise, and it will take longer for it to slow down afterward.

Vital signs can be crucial should you or a loved one fall ill. Knowing the normal ranges of these vital signs can be a big step in understanding the next steps to take.

At Caring Senior Service we are always ready to help seniors and their families by providing professional advice and services. As you consider ways to give support to your aging parents or relatives, consider including us in your plans. Contact our care team at a location near you today!

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Tags: Senior Health