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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Easy On, Easy Off: Clothing for Older Adults

Whether it’s surgery, arthritis, dementia, or the aches and pains of aging, many seniors and caregivers appreciate the simplicity and ease of adaptive clothing.  

Many older adults and caregivers struggle to dress themselves or their clients, not realizing that there are a variety of better options available. Adaptive clothing is easy to find these days, whether it’s to ease toileting for those using wheelchairs, make getting dressed an easier task for someone with arthritis, or allow caregivers an easier way to dress patients with limited dexterity. 

Who Needs Adaptive Clothing?

Many of us may find adaptive clothing useful to have in our own closets. Those who have arthritis flare-ups or weakened hands and limbs will appreciate styles that use hook and loop (such as Velcro brand) closures. Styles that traditionally feature buttons, such as men’s dress shirts, can retain that look with closures tucked away underneath a button front and cuffs. The same goes for pant styles that appear to close with a snap and zipper but feature magnetic or hook and loop closures.

Where to Purchase Adaptive Clothing

Many companies offer adaptive clothing as their only product or as an adjunct to traditional styles. This list serves as a jumping-off point, but there are a multitude of other fine providers that can be found with a specialized search. 

Buck and Buck features adaptive clothing and footwear geared to older adults.
IZ Adaptive has fashionable clothes for men and women in the latest styles.
Joe and Bella is geared toward older adults and offers a nice range of adaptive clothing and other items for seniors. 
Ovidis was started by four women who couldn’t find adaptive wear they liked for their parents who needed care. 
Silverts offers adaptive sleepwear and intimates for both men and women.
Tommy Adaptive is an arm of fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger. It offers the same style with easy closures for men, women, and children.
Zappos Adaptive has single and different-sized shoes, wide shoes, and adaptive intimates and accessories as well as clothing.

Caregivers and their clients benefit enormously when adaptive clothing is used. Side snaps and zips can make putting on pants a much easier task. Shirts that close in the back allow wearers to avoid the painful motion of forcing shoulders back into sleeves. Jumpsuits with zip or hook and loop back closures are the answer for Alzheimer’s patients who may have a tendency to undress in public. 

People in wheelchairs can also benefit from adaptive pants with flaps in back that open easily, or a dress with the fabric in back cut out to allow for easier and quicker toileting. They may also like pants with a comfy elastic waist that is cut higher in back to accommodate a seated posture. All styles offer full coverage in a seated position, with some made to also be discreet while standing. 

Mental Health Benefits

While adaptive clothing serves many practical needs, saving time and energy and reducing pain, the positive effects don’t stop there. Most older adults don’t want to be seen in a hospital gown every day, even when pain and diminished ability with tasks like buttoning make that option the most practical one. Adaptive clothing allows them to maintain a sense of style and independence. Confidence increases when people feel good in what they’re wearing. And caregivers have a greater sense of capability and control when dressing their clients is easier.


There are a wide variety of ways that clothing may be adapted to fit the needs of older adults. For instance, cuffs can be left with a traditional button closure while the underarm seam is held together with hook and latch or magnetic tabs. Alternatively, some people may be fine with a sewn seam but hook and loop under the faux button closure. The needs of the person who will wear the clothing need to be evaluated before purchasing. Does that person have trouble lifting his arms? Putting his shoulders back to put on sleeves? Would he prefer a traditional look to his shirts, with closures hidden in side seams? Or would he be fine with a caregiver putting clothes on and taking them off, and back closures? 

Another consideration is style. It is possible to have almost any item modified by a tailor to turn it into adaptive wear. Some people would prefer to have favorite pieces altered for continued use. For others, it may be simpler to buy a wardrobe of adaptive clothing available online (see sidebar). 

Shoes are also available in adaptive styles. People with swollen limbs, bunions, and/or trouble bending over may appreciate the slip-on styling and simple hook and loop closures of this footwear. 

Finally, adaptive sleepwear and undergarments can also be purchased online in a variety of styles. Often, bras are one of the first things that become too difficult for a woman to manage. This problem can be solved with styles that close in the front or eliminate closures altogether for slip-on, slip-off ease. Need we say that they are wire-free for added comfort? 

No matter what the need, adaptive clothing can fill the gap where traditional styles fall short. Simple solutions using alternate closures can make life a lot easier for older adults and caregivers while maintaining dignity and a sense of personal style. There’s no need to struggle with buttons, traditional sleeves or pants that are nearly impossible to get on when adaptive clothing is easy to find.