Caring for an aging loved one involves many more aspects than providing suitable care, nutrition, and medication. To ensure seniors are as comfortable dressing and undressing as possible, adaptive wear to the rescue.

Dressing and undressing can be time-consuming and physically demanding for many older adults and their caregivers. It can also be problematic in particular cases, such as a person with Alzheimer’s, a bed-bound senior loved one, or wheelchair users.

This is where adaptive clothing comes in, offering handy apparel designs that are easier to put on, take off, keep on, and securely fastened.

Below is a detailed guide on clothing options for seniors: what they are, how they work, their benefits, their features, and where you can buy them.

What Is Adaptive Clothing and How Does It Work?

Adaptive clothing is a complete line of clothing that’s meant to make wearing and removing various articles of clothing more convenient.

Adaptive clothing for seniors, also known as geriatric clothing or geriatric adaptive clothing, is apparel specifically developed to make your aging loved one’s life more comfortable.

These clothes have various features to help older adults, their family members, or caregivers manage dressing/undressing challenges resulting from mobility problems, sensory sensitivities, compromised motor skills, physical disabilities, and cognitive impairment.

Senior clothing isn’t just designed to be simply slipped on and off; there are adaptive items made to stay secure in place, be easier to fasten, and even contain compartments to accommodate medical equipment.

Adaptive Clothing Can Be Fashionable!

Some people have the misconception that adaptive clothing is unfashionable or the garments look out of place.

However, more and more manufacturers and clothing companies are launching adaptive clothes that look just like ordinary garments. A list of our favorite senior clothing companies to shop is listed further below.

Easy-to-put-on shoes for seniors can also be fashionable and in-style.
Easy-to-put-on shoes for seniors can also be fashionable and in-style.

Self-dressing vs Assisted Dressing

Generally speaking, adaptive clothing for older adults and disabled people is divided into two categories: self-dressing and assisted dressing.

Self-dressing adaptive clothing is designed for people who have limited mobility but are still able to get dressed independently.

Assisted dressing adaptive clothing is for seniors who need caregivers to help them get dressed.

These two adaptive clothing styles share some features and differ in others. The features needed to make it easier for an individual to dress independently are different from making it easier for one person to dress another.

Benefits of Adaptive Clothing for Seniors

Now that you’re familiar with adaptive clothing, it’s time to look at the benefits these apparel solutions can offer your elderly loved ones.

The following are a few examples of when the comfort, speed, and safety provided by adaptive clothing come in handy:

  • Adaptive clothing for arthritis patients: there are more than 100 different types of arthritis that can cause pain and swelling in joints and can significantly limit joint movement making it difficult to dress or undress. Arthritis clothing allows people with limited mobility to dress and undress with minimal discomfort.
  • Adaptive clothing for dementia patients: these conditions affect a person’s behavior, memory, and mood. A common behavior of people with cognitive challenges is removing their clothes. Clothing for dementia patients who undress may open in the back to make it more difficult to remove by the person wearing it.
  • People managing incontinence: incontinence is when older adults lose control over their bladder or bowel movements, and changing adult briefs may be frequent.
  • People who are bedbound: dressing and undressing people who are bedbound requires full assistance from caregivers. Adaptive clothing for nursing home residents is typical in long-term care settings to make dressing/undressing easier for both caregivers and residents.
  • Seniors in wheelchairs: being in a constantly seated position presents dressing and undressing challenges for disabled individuals.

Accessible Features to Look For

With a better understanding of what adaptive clothing is and how it can benefit people who need clothing accommodations, let’s get into the features to look for when you start shopping.

The following are the most common features you’ll come across. Clothes may have one or several of these features:

Magnetic Closures

This type of clothing comes with magnets that stick together and keep the garment (usually shirts, sweaters, or coats) closed. The stronger the magnet, the stronger the hold will be. This accommodation is perfect for people struggling with fine motor skills.

They are available in various sizes to fit different types of tops. They can be small to fasten lightweight tops, or bigger to hold heavier pieces like cardigans and coats.

An adaptive clothing shirt for women with magnetic closures.

Compared to Velcro closures, magnetic closures allow for more flexibility. The decreased stiffness makes unfastening the magnets easier; just pull apart the fabric panels.

While magnetic closures are versatile and straightforward, people with pacemakers should avoid them. Magnets -no matter how tiny- produce magnetic fields that can interfere with the function of pacemakers. Be sure to consult your physician if you have questions about items that may interfere with your pacemaker.

Velcro/ Hook and Loop

More widely known than garments with magnets are Velcro closures or hook and loop closures.

They don’t need nearly as much effort to close as zippers or buttons do. Aligning the two faces of Velcro and laying one on top of the other is pretty much all it takes to fasten the pieces of clothing.

Velcro strips are useful if you want to make your own Velcro clothing.

Velcro is already a very popular element in clothing, from shoes and athletic gear to jackets and pants. Its ease of use made it inevitable for velcro clothing to appear in adaptive clothing items as well.

Velcro closures are reliable and sturdy. They solve the issue of having to manipulate the closure in a certain way to get it to fasten the fabric.

Whether it’s buttons, zippers, laces, or snaps, Velcro beats them all as you don’t need to tie, push, coordinate hand movements, or even see very well to open and close it.

If you opt for Velcro-type clothing, remember to look for softer, thinner closures with no rough edges that can irritate fragile skin.

Pull-Over Tops Make Dressing Easier

Instead of using any closure or fastener, some clothing designs trade them for a pull-over construction. With these garments, the person just needs to lift their arms and slip on the tops from above.

Seniors who have enough mobility in their upper bodies to perform these movements will appreciate the convenience of pull-over tops.

Make sure to choose tops with wide armholes and head openings so they don’t restrict you when wearing and removing them.

Pull-Up Tabs

Pull-up tabs, or grab loops are straps of stretchy material located on the sides of the waistband of pants or the backs of shoes.

When the wearer puts on their pants or shorts, they can grab these straps and pull them up. Once the pants or shorts are in place, releasing the straps will cause them to shrink to their original size and remain tucked flat over the waistband.

Elastic Waistbands

Seniors with or without physical difficulties can benefit from elastic waistbands.

There’s no effort whatsoever involved with fasteners and they’re downright comfortable, especially for people dealing with mobility issues.

Pants with an elastic waist for ease of dressing and undressing.

Elastic waistbands allow for flexibility in sizing. They can shrink or stretch to match any weight variation, water retention, or swelling.

Easy On and Off Clothing

Easy to put on and take off clothing is designed to deliver both style and maximum convenience. It’s made to be quick and simple yet secure and comfortable.

These types of clothing can feature any of the solutions discussed above that facilitate the opening and closure of the garment.

For example, form-fitting shirts are typically troublesome for older adults with a limited range of motion to work their heads and arms through the holes.

To make wearing shirts easier, the fabric around the holes is treated to be more flexible. Wearers will be met with less resistance as they push arms and heads through the holes.

The stretchiness is also useful for caregivers as it makes dressing more comfortable for the older adult and for the person helping them.

Open Back or Open Side Clothes

Whether open part way or all the way down, this feature makes it easy to put them on, remove them, or allow medical equipment such as catheters and IVs to pass uninterrupted.

Clothing with open backs or sides might have removable fabric panels that cover the opening when not needed or overlapping sections of fabric to cover up that can easily be separated to gain access.

The overlapping fabric is secured in place by Velcro or another adaptive fastener.

Tagless Tags

Tags are very annoying for people with sensory sensitivities. They cause discomfort and irritation if they are in the wrong place or made of abrasive fabric.

A tagless shirt. Tags can be very annoying for people with sensitive skin or sensory issues. Look for clothing with tagless tags.

You can cut the tags off, but then you may be left with a rough seam that’ll just cause the same problems.

A tagless tag is a solution you’ll find on many pieces of clothing with the manufacturer’s information printed directly on the fabric eliminating the scratchy tag.

Flat Seams or Seamless Designs

People with sensory sensitivity might experience great discomfort when they wear items with seams. To resolve this, clothing featuring flat seams or seamless fabric may be a good solution.

This style of seamless clothing is beneficial for women who wear undergarments as it is smooth all around to prevent possible irritation.

Anti-Strip

Aging loved ones with cognitive challenges like dementia or Alzheimer’s may have behaviors, including taking off their clothes at inappropriate times.

Garments featuring anti-strip features may be the solution. They’re designed to be difficult for the wearer to take off while simultaneously simple and not time-consuming for family caregivers to handle.

The best example of anti-strip clothing is fasteners that are placed on the back of the garments so the caregiver can access them easily but not the wearer.

High Back Bottoms

Sometimes when sitting, pants have a tendency to slide down slightly at the back.

People in wheelchairs who spend the majority of their time in a sitting position can do without their bottoms getting tugged down all day. When people wear adaptive bottoms with high backs, it solves this issue and provides extra coverage.

Make Adaptive Clothing for Seniors at Home

Make your own clothing adaptive with some basic sewing skills and a sewing machine.

You can make adaptive clothes at home. If you have basic knowledge of sewing and the materials needed, it can be a very easy project to complete.

You can add several accessible features mentioned on the list above and turn them into items that work for your elderly loved ones.

For example, you can install Velcro strips in almost any garment in place of a zipper or buttons. Velcro strips are readily available in various sizes to fit whatever apparel you’re working on.

You may also be able to find magnetic buttons for button-down shirts and sweaters. Side zippers can be installed for people who need frequent brief changes or access to a feeding tube.

Simplicity Patterns – DIY Adaptive Patterns
Great catch by one of our visitors. Simplicity Patterns offers an adaptive line of easy-to-sew patterns for adaptive tops, recovery gowns, fidget pages, wheelchair blankets, cardigans, and wheelchair accessories for disabled women and men.

Simplicity Patterns offers sewing patterns for adaptive clothing for older adults.

Where to Shop For Adaptive Clothing for Seniors

Many famous brands have launched lines of fashionable clothing for seniors over the recent years. Here are some of the best places to shop that we have found. We will continue to add to this list as we find more!

Company/BrandWhat They Sell
Buck & BuckSenior women and men’s adaptive clothing
MagnaReadyMagnetic adaptive clothing for men and women
SilvertsWomen’s and men’s adaptive clothing and footwear
Dignity PajamasOpen back nightgowns and pajamas
OvidisWomen’s and men’s adaptive clothing and footwear
The Able LabelStylish men’s and women’s clothing from the UK (ships to US)
Friendly ShoesAdaptive footwear for men, women, and children
Seven7JeansAdaptive pants and jeans for men and women
Slick ChicksAdaptive underwear, tops, and joggers for women
Tommy Hilfiger AdaptiveAdaptive designer clothing for men, women, and children
Zappos AdaptiveAdaptive clothing for men, women, and children
AmazonAdaptive clothing from a variety of manufacturers
Elder DepotMedical supplies, home health products, and adaptive women’s clothing
JCPennyAdaptive clothing and accessories for men, women, and children

Adaptive Clothing Solutions for Older Adults

Adaptive clothing provides seniors and their caregivers with functional and fashionable solutions to make dressing and undressing a more manageable task.

With various innovative features, such as magnetic closures, Velcro fasteners, pull-over tops, and high-back bottoms, these clothes cater to the unique needs of older adults with mobility issues, sensory sensitivities, or cognitive impairments.

As the market for adaptive clothing continues to grow, many brands and retailers are offering stylish and comfortable options.

By understanding the different types of adaptive clothing and their specific features, family caregivers can make informed decisions when selecting the most suitable options for their loved ones, ensuring their comfort, dignity, and independence.

Adaptive Clothing for Seniors Frequently Asked Questions

What is adaptive clothing?

Adaptive clothing is designed to make dressing and undressing more manageable for people with mobility issues, sensory sensitivities, or cognitive impairments, as well as their caregivers. It offers a range of innovative features, such as magnetic closures, Velcro fasteners, and open-back designs, which cater to the unique needs of older adults and people with disabilities, ensuring their comfort, dignity, and independence.

What types of clothing are best for people with sensory issues?

For people with sensory issues, clothing made from soft, breathable fabrics featuring flat seams or seamless designs is ideal. Tagless labels are also preferable, as they eliminate the discomfort and irritation caused by traditional tags.

How to make adaptive clothing for seniors?

To make adaptive clothing for seniors, start with basic sewing knowledge and materials. Modify existing garments by adding features like Velcro strips in place of zippers or buttons, or attach magnetic closures to button-down shirts and sweaters. You can also create side zippers or overlapping fabric openings to accommodate specific needs like frequent brief changes or access to a feeding tube.

Where can I buy adaptive clothing?

You can buy adaptive clothing from a variety of brands and retailers, including Buck & Buck, MagnaReady, Silvert’s, and Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive. Online platforms like Amazon, Zappos, and JCPenney offer a wide range of adaptive clothing options for seniors, catering to different needs and preferences.

An expert in senior care, Amie has professional and personal experience in senior housing, caregiving, end-of-life care, and more from her 24 years of working with older adults.