If you’re a senior or a person with disabilities who struggles with dressing, adaptive clothing provides specific design features to make getting dressed easier and more comfortable.
Adaptive clothes have modifications like velcro, magnetic closures, open backs and sides, and pull-on waists to account for limited mobility and dexterity. They are made to be stylish, high-quality, and meet your unique needs.
You can find adaptive options from specialty brands like Joe & Bella, Resident Essentials, and Seven7 Jeans focused on senior and disability-friendly apparel. Major retailers like Tommy Hilfiger, Amazon, Zappos, and JCPenney also carry adaptive clothing lines. Plus size and big and tall adaptive styles are available too!
Insurance usually doesn’t cover adaptive clothing, but if your budget is tight, modifications to existing clothes, like adding velcro and elastic, can make them more accessible.
This guide shares the full range of adaptive clothing benefits and options to address your specific dressing challenges. Keep reading for details on features, finding the right fit and style, and how to choose adaptive clothes to suit your needs.
What Is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing is designed for people with physical disabilities or those experiencing difficulty dressing due to not having a full range of motion or the inability to manipulate closures, such as seniors.
It helps preserve independence in personal care and dressing for wearers and makes dressing easier for caregivers.
Adaptive clothing is aimed at helping seniors who find dressing difficult because of disabilities and people with sensory problems that may find regular clothes either painful or uncomfortable.
Conditions affecting health, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, and arthritis, may affect a person’s ability to dress and undress, particularly if the motor skills required to operate zippers and buttons are reduced.
Sensory processing issues can make tags and seams that others might even notice unbearable. Adaptive clothing is available for adults and children at various companies, and even major retailers, such as Target, now carry them.
Many recently launched adaptive garments have been designed to look just like regular clothes.
What Are the Features of Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing is designed to make self-dressing much easier. To do so, designers typically consider the limitations of the people that will be using it and focus on ways to ease those issues.
There are many different types of adaptive clothing available. But, here are some of the most common features that you will usually find on adaptive clothing:
Hook and Loop Fasteners
Hook and loop fasteners (aka Velcro) are closures that can easily open, close, and adjust as needed. Best of all, they will stay put all day. For maximum comfort, try looking for softer, thinner hook and loop closures without hard edges that dig into the skin.
Learn more about velcro clothing for seniors here.
If Velcro-like fasteners are too stiff for your loved one, seek out pants and shirts with magnetic closures, which are incredibly easy to work with. The magnets remain stuck together until you grasp the fabric panels and move them apart.
In this video, I demonstrate a helpful button up shirt with magnetic buttons:
Keep in mind, however, that clothing with magnetic closures isn’t suitable for people with pacemakers so check with your doctor first.
Elastic waist pants are a great option, even for those that don’t have a disability. They are especially convenient and comfortable for people with limited mobility.
Elastic waists do away with the need for closures and ensure that clothes can stretch or shrink to accommodate any weight fluctuations or swelling.
You can see four different versions of elastic waist pants in this video:
Open Backs or Sides
Shirts and pants featuring either open backs or sides have overlapping fabric panels in strategic areas that ensure modesty for the wearer while providing easy dressing and access to catheters and other medical devices.
The panels may be held in place by Velcro, stamps, and other fasteners, and the open slip may descend either partway or all the way down the garment.
Another version is pants that unzip on the sides either partially or all the way. This variation makes pant or brief changes easier for bedridden people or wheelchair users.
For example, these chinos from Joe & Bella unzip all the way – from waist to ankle – in either direction.
Shirts and dresses sometimes do away with the fasteners completely and go for a pull-over design instead. These designs are ideally used by people with enough upper body mobility to raise their arms.
Wider necklines and armholes are preferable so the wearer isn’t too restricted when putting them on or off.
Higher Backs on Pants
Pants usually pull down in the back when you sit, and this can be a major issue for people that use wheelchairs or those that spend most of the day in a sitting position.
Adaptive pants are usually designed such that the back rises higher than the front, ensuring that wearers always have sufficient coverage.
Pull-up tabs are stretchy straps on the sides of pants and are intended to make them easier to pull up. Once released, the elastic returns to its original position and lays flat against the waistband, ensuring maximum comfort for the wearer.
Tags often cause many sensory issues for people, so if you find them bothersome, you should seek out garments that print the tag directly on the garment rather than having a separate bit of fabric flapping around.
Then, you will never need to worry about dealing with a rough seam or cutting out a tag again.
Seamless Construction or Flattened Seams
Seams are yet another source of discomfort for people with sensory issues. Look for garments with flattened seams, or completely remove them and go with seamless construction instead. Then, you will never need to worry about chafing again.
Who Does Adaptive Clothing Benefit?
Anybody with difficulty dressing easily and comfortably will likely find adaptive clothing useful.
It is especially useful for people with disabilities, wheelchair users, the elderly and infirm, or people with an illness or condition that makes day-to-day dressing a challenge.
Here are specific groups of people that can benefit from adaptive clothing:
Adaptive Clothing for Seniors and Elderly
The older people get, the more they find that things they previously did have become more challenging. One of those things is dressing. Dressing independently is something everyone wants to do with ease but is more difficult for seniors.
Fortunately, with adaptive clothing, seniors and the elderly can independently dress themselves. Learn more about using adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly here.
Adaptive Clothing for Disabled
Having a disability doesn’t have to be an issue regarding clothing. Fortunately, with adaptive clothing, dressing is a lot easier for adults with disabilities, no matter what that disability is.
Adaptive clothing is designed for all kinds of disabilities and those in hospitals that have recently undergone surgery and now find dressing painful.
Read my guide to adaptive clothing for disabled adults here.
Adaptive Clothing for Men
Adaptive clothing for men is especially great for senior and elderly men looking for easier dressing solutions to make their lives easier.
Younger men undergoing physical or occupational therapy or recovering from a sports injury can also benefit from adaptive clothing.
Elastic waist pants, open-back shirts, and magnetic zipper jackets are all great examples of adaptive clothing for men.
Adaptive Clothing for Women
Comfort and fashion are often high at the top of a woman’s list when looking for clothing, which is why it can be difficult to find the right item of clothing.
Adaptive clothing for women provides easy dressing functionalities such as open-back tops so that senior and elderly women never struggle with narrow neck openings.
Adaptive clothing for women also includes side-open pants with zipper or elastic waist openings so that fastening buttons are no longer a challenge.
Where to Find Adaptive Clothing for Seniors
Adaptive clothing is becoming increasingly common and is often sold in numerous stores and online marketplaces. In fact, some conventional clothing stores have started stocking it, although their selection is usually limited.
Here are the leading stores that stock adaptive clothing for seniors:
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Joe & Bella creates fashionable, accessible adaptive clothing catering to a variety of needs. Their designs incorporate thoughtful features like magnetic closures, pull-on waists, and side zippers to provide discreet accessibility for people with limited mobility or dexterity.
Driven by a mission to preserve dignity through clothing, Joe & Bella offers contemporary styles that help people maintain their sense of self during transitional times requiring adaptive apparel.
With specialized collections for medical conditions and a focus on balancing comfort and authentic self-expression, Joe & Bella is an ideal supplier for those seeking stylish, empowering adaptive wear.
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With over 20 years of experience, Resident Essentials specializes in comfortable, easy-to-wear adaptive clothing designed for seniors and people with disabilities.
They offer a wide selection of options for both men and women, featuring modifications like velcro closures and side openings to simplify dressing.
Resident Essentials caters directly to nursing homes and facilities and directly to consumers, providing free services like shipping, name labeling, and rewards programs.
Their decades of focus solely on adaptive clothing for this community makes Resident Essentials a leading choice for families and caregivers seeking quality, easy-to-wear adaptive clothes to improve daily living.
Related Review: Resident Essentials Elastic Waist Twill Pant (Men and Women)
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Ovidis is a specialty clothing manufacturer for people with physical or cognitive difficulties. They offer unique and innovative designs for easy and stress-free dressing by older adults, the disabled, or their caregivers.
Zappos offers much more than adaptive shoes. They offer many adaptive clothing items as well from many of the popular adaptive clothing brands. Plus, they have an Advisory Council that reviews and selects the items they choose to sell.
Dignity Pajamas has created a nice niche in adaptive sleepwear for men and women. They offer many styles of sleep shirts, pajamas, and gowns with open-backs and velcro closures.
Being one of the world’s largest retailers, Amazon offers a wide selection of adaptive clothing from many of the most popular manufacturers. Another benefit to purchasing from Amazon is their easy-to-navigate website and generous return policies.
Etsy is a great place to find one-of-a-kind adaptive clothing pieces that aren’t mass-marketed. Some Etsy sellers even offer custom-made items for special situations or will make special sizes for larger or smaller people.
JCPenney offers a decent selection of adaptive clothing made by standard clothing manufacturers like St. John’s Ba, a.n.a., and Worthington. Plus sizes are available too.
You can also find adaptive clothing through brands dedicated specifically to the craft. A few examples include:
Perhaps a surprising addition to the list is well-known fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger who has a line of adaptive clothing for both adults and children. His shop is a great choice for the more fashion-forward person.
This company focuses on creating stylish denim jeans that use adaptive technology like Velcro or elastic waistbands. Several of their styles are even wheelchair-friendly!
FAQs About Adaptive Clothing
How Does Adaptive Clothing Help Caregivers and Healthcare Professionals?
Adaptive clothing makes the job of healthcare professionals easier since it makes dressing and undressing the patient safer and more convenient.
For patients with more intensive disabilities and injuries, adaptive clothing offers open back solutions that prevent injuries in the caregiver and reduce the struggle of dressing patients.
Adaptive clothing also benefits caregivers. Lifting a patient incorrectly or without a gait belt puts the caregiver at risk for straining their back, and getting tangled in the clothes can lead to tripping and falling.
Adaptive clothing usually reduces or completely eliminates the need to lift the patient, making it easier to guide the clothing on and off without the fabric getting gnarled.
Is Adaptive Clothing Covered by Insurance?
Adaptive equipment, including adaptive clothing, isn’t considered medically necessary, for the most part, so it isn’t covered by insurance.
Are There Ways to Modify Current Clothing to Make It More Accessible?
Seniors and elderly individuals that have physical disabilities or limited mobility can find it difficult if not impossible to wear regular clothing.
Adaptive clothing specifically designed to cater to the needs of such individuals could be the difference between being able to get dressed or not.
Fortunately, it is possible to modify your current clothing to make it more accessible. Here are some of the ways to do just that:
- Adding zippers to create new access points
- Adding loops to pants waistbands
- Adding a full-length zipper to the side seam
- Removing the back pockets
- Replacing the rear side of pants with softer fabric
Can You Make Your Own Adaptive Clothing?
Yes. It is actually cheaper than buying ready-made adaptive clothing. However, it is important to ensure that the wearer has maximum comfort when you do so.
Can You Buy Used Adaptive Clothing?
It would be incorrect to claim that it is impossible to find used adaptive clothing to buy, but most stores generally don’t stock used adaptive clothing.
It is always preferable to buy new adaptive clothing since it costs about the same as regular clothes, on average.
Can You Use FSA/HSA to Pay for Adaptive Clothing?
FSA/HSA can be used for paying for adaptive equipment required after a major disability, such as a spinal cord injury or for assistance with activities of daily living, but cannot be used to pay for adaptive equipment needed for general comfort.
Adaptive clothing isn’t covered directly by FSA/HSA, but equipment used to make dressing easier, such as magnetic closures, might be covered.
Is Adaptive Clothing Tax Deductible?
The U.S. Tax Code allows you to deduct certain medical expenses from your federal income taxes. Some of the deductible medical expenses are those associated with acquiring durable medical equipment.
However, items used for general health benefits, such as adaptive clothing, are typically not tax-deductible.
Is Big and Tall Adaptive Clothing Available?
Yes. Just as is the case with regular clothing, you can get big and tall adaptive clothing to help any big members of your family that require it to look sharp and feel great. It is an excellent way to enhance your loved one’s wardrobe.
Is Adaptive Clothing Available in Plus Sizes?
Yes. It is important to get plus-size adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly.
Plus-size adaptive clothing is particularly recommended for those with all kinds of mobility concerns, including multiple sclerosis, physical disabilities, and limited mobility caused by the natural process of aging.
Plus-size adaptive clothing goes up to size 6XL depending on the brand and typically features stretchy, breathable fabric to suit various sizes.
The daily routine of getting dressed in the morning after waking up and undressed in the evening when going to bed can become harder as we age.
Fortunately, adaptive clothing helps overcome the challenge of getting dressed, giving seniors independence.
Adaptive clothing is the perfect option for people that have limited mobility, struggle with conventional clothing, or are in an assisted living facility or nursing home and want to reduce their dependence on caregivers to help them get dressed.
Adaptive clothing allows your loved ones to keep dressing for a while. Being able to dress themselves is incredibly important for maintaining their sense of independence and empowerment, even when their ability to participate in other activities is limited.
Whether it is putting shoes on your loved one’s swollen feet or helping a wheelchair user into pants, adaptive clothing will reduce the hassle for both you and them. It is also more comfortable and can help improve your loved one’s quality of life.
Now that you know all about what adaptive clothing is, the different types of adaptive clothing available, the different adaptive clothing brands, and important considerations when buying adaptive clothes for your loved one, you are in a position to make an informed buying decision. Best of luck.