A Beginner's Guide to Adaptive Clothing

The decline in physical ability as you age is no simple matter. For many people, the lack of mobility, dexterity, and strength can prevent them from performing even simple tasks such as putting on shirts, pants, or even dresses. Fortunately, adaptive clothing aims to solve these issues. The goal is to make dressing up as easy as possible with ergonomic clothing designs such as Velcro straps, hook and loop closures, zippers, and snaps.

What is Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is a specialized type of garment designed to help seniors, persons with disabilities, children with learning disabilities, or anyone who needs the assistance of caregivers when dressing up.

These specialized garments exist not only to reduce the burden of dressing up for the physically impaired, but to boost one's confidence as well. A sense of self-reliance and independence is important for older adults, regardless of whether they stay at home or live in a senior facility.

Thankfully, there's a wide range of options when it comes to adaptive clothing for men and women. These include weighted vests, button-down shirts with magnet-equipped buttons, front-closing bras, pants with slits down the side, and seamless socks.

How Do I Know What Adaptive Clothing to Buy?

Planning to add more senior-friendly garments to your or your loved one's wardrobe? First, check out your options. Adaptive clothing is available on a wide range of sites and physical stores, don't limit yourself to the first ones you see.

Now that you've checked out your options, it's time to set a budget. Trust us, it's easy to get carried away when adding random items to your shopping cart—whether it's online or offline.

Next, try them out. Don't be afraid to use the dressing room and try out the selections. After all, you need something that perfectly matches your or your senior relative's needs. Alternatively, if you're shopping online, make sure you opt for brands that have a return policy on their products. That way, you can get a full refund if the clothes don't fit.

Just remember to keep in mind that there's no strict step-by-step guideline for seniors to following when shopping for clothing. Overall, the goal is to buy something you or your senior relative is comfortable in.

Benefits of Adaptive Clothing

Dressing Made Easier

Adaptive clothing is designed to make dressing easier for seniors and people with disabilities. Ease and functionality are their main purposes. For example, people with limited dexterity might not be able to properly grip zippers and button closures—so open back shirts and pants may be a better fit.

Comfort and Function Combined

An individual over 65 dealing with chronic body pain and aches would generally want to wear loose and comfortable garments, as opposed to tight and form-fitting ones with restrictive closures like pins and zippers. That's exactly what adaptive clothing offers. Senior-friendly apparel focuses on making the wearer feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible, no matter where they are.

Fashion-Forward Designs

Contrary to popular belief, senior-friendly clothing comes in a wide variety of designs. Yes, a functional, practical overall design is essential to address the dressing needs of the senior or person with disability using that piece of clothing. However, that doesn't mean you can completely forego fashion.

If you're looking for cool, modern activewear sneakers and shoes, try Nike and Billy Footwear. On the other hand, those looking to build a classy wardrobe of casual wear can shop at Tommy Hilfiger, IZ Adaptive, and Reboundwear.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of adaptive clothing?

The senior clothing industry has evolved greatly over the past years and more options are now made available not just for seniors, but for adults and children with special needs as well. That's why we get to enjoy a wide variety of adaptive clothing.

Options range from blanket-syle slip-on pants for wheelchair users to Velcro-lined, side-parting pants with no buttons. You can also get special items such as bibs for patients with Alzheimer's disease or arm warmer for fragile seniors who easily get cold.

Where can I buy adaptive clothing?

More and more clothing brands are starting to create dressing options geared toward senior shoppers with physical impairments and disabilities who need help getting dressed. Even large corporations such as Tommy Hilfiger and Nike now have their adaptive clothing line.

After all, most consumers shop by need. If you don't make an effort to make your items and products as inclusive as possible, you'll end up losing your loyal customers.

Here are some of the stores where you can check out senior-friendly clothing for men and women:
-BILLY Footwear
-Nike (focuses on activewear shoes for seniors)
-Tommy Hilfiger
-Dignity Pajamas
-Buck & Buck

Additional Resources

Clothing and Dressing Habits of Seniors

This study by the Institute of Art & Fashion, Tianjin Polytechnic University, Tianjin, China goes in-depth as to what limitations prevent older people from getting dressed, why more designers should start creating senior-friendly clothing items, and when seniors should consider overhauling their wardrobe collection.

Common Problems Seniors Encounter When Getting Dressed

Research shows that self-dressing is an issue for both older men and women. However, symptoms of lower-body impairment are more prevalent among aging men.

Adaptive clothing is the fashion innovation that seniors and PWDs deserve. They come in a variety of clothing designs that combine comfort, fashion, and functionality. This is a must for anyone who finds getting dressed a challenge.

Also, there's no need to choose between getting senior-friendly, specialized apparel and hiring caregivers. In fact, you should consider getting both.

It's important for seniors to have independence and be free to choose whether they'll opt for assisted dressing or if they want to practice putting on their clothes by themselves. This freedom helps maintain one's dignity.

Are you still confused as to what senior-friendly clothing is? Improving your quality of life even as you age goes beyond the dressing and clothing options in your wardrobe collection. Senior Strong provides multiple resources to help older adults live in comfort even as they age. Visit the Senior Strong website now!

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Nathan Justice manages community outreach programs and forums that help many senior citizens. He completed a counseling program at the University of Maryland’s Department of Psychology.
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