Millions of American seniors struggle to get dressed in the morning. A combination of aging, medical conditions, limited mobility, and a loss of motor skills makes getting dressed far more complicated.
Many of those same seniors require caretaker assistance when getting dressed and undressed. Luckily, there is a massive market of easy-to-put-on clothes for the elderly designed with accessibility in mind.
What is Adaptive Clothing?
Adaptive clothing includes a wide range of different styles, materials, and mechanisms. The clothes are primarily designed for seniors, the disabled, bedridden, and immobile customers.
They utilize different materials and design techniques to make the clothes easy to put on and take off.
Adaptive clothing may be something as simple as a pullover top with stretchier fabric near the neckline. It could also be a formal dress shirt with a long series of Velcro patches instead of small buttons.
Adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly can be any type of specialized clothing that is meant to be easier to put on, close, and hold into place.
The clothing may also be designed with a specific medical condition, treatment, or piece of equipment in mind. For example, some adaptive pants are designed specifically for patients who use a catheter.
Some of the clothes come with flaps, holes, or pockets for certain types of equipment.
What Types of Adaptive Clothing Are Easier to Put On?
The most popular adaptive clothing styles are easy to put on and don’t impede movement. One of the simplest ways to create adaptive clothing that’s easy to put on is by replacing the closure mechanism on the clothes.
Most modern clothes are made with buttons, strings, or zippers to hold them closed.
Handling the small closure mechanisms can be extremely difficult for an elderly citizen. Adaptive clothing styles often replace that mechanism with something that is easier to close without sacrificing comfort or style.
1. Velcro Clothing
Velcro is considered the king when it comes to adaptive clothing for seniors. It’s one of the most common and most reliable closure replacements for pants, shoes, shirts, shorts, dresses, and bras.
A Velcro closure can create a secure connection in a matter of seconds without the need to fight buttons, zippers, or laces. It’s just as simple to remove Velcro clothing when changing.
Velcro shoes are considered a major upgrade in terms of accessibility. Tying old-fashioned laces required bending over and tying the string. Most seniors found it painful and sometimes impossible.
Some people would resort to simply pushing their laces into their shoes, but that meant the shoe didn’t have a firm grip. Velcro is a more reliable solution, and it doesn’t require a huge investment.
Pants are another article of clothing that can be vastly improved with the addition of Velcro. Small metal zippers can be difficult to grasp and control. A senior may even cut their skin on the hard edges of the zipper.
Replacing the zipper with a Velcro closure eliminates the difficulty and danger. Velcro doesn’t require any advanced motor skills, flexibility, visibility, or strength.
There’s no limit to the types of Velcro clothing you can find on the internet and at retail stores. Essentially any clothes that require a mechanism to hold them closed can be modified with Velcro as well.
If you care for a senior, then you have the option of converting some of their favorite clothes into Velcro clothing.
Adding Velcro to existing clothes is extremely simple. The Velcro brand manufacturers clothing strips that are designed specifically for this task.
It includes two pieces of attached Velcro with adhesive glue on the backside of both halves. It’s a modification that takes less than ten minutes and saves hours of headaches each year.
2. Magnetic Closures
Velcro isn’t the only closure alternative that’s popular in adaptive clothing. Magnetic closures are widely available on almost all of the same products.
Magnetic shoes might not be popular, but there are pants, shirts, and bras, all with small magnetic closures. The concept even inspired an entire brand of adaptive clothing called MagnaReady.
Similar to Velcro closures, magnets can be easily disguised to look the same as traditional button pants. It doesn’t make a noticeable difference to the appearance of the pants, and it doesn’t stand out. It simply changes the way that you keep the pants closed around your waist.
Magnetic closures are also becoming popular on the shoulders of adaptive shirts. Brands add magnetic shoulder openings to adaptive shirts so that they are easier to put on and take off. The shoulders easily open when changing and then can be clipped closed when wearing the shirt.
3. Elastic Waist Pants
Not all adaptive features revolve around replacing the closure with something easier. Some of the changes, like the shoulder openings, make it easier to put the shirt on.
Clothes that are too tight or have small openings can be very difficult for seniors. If you are a caretaker, it means you will spend significantly more time trying to help them in and out of their clothes.
Elastic waist pants are a type of adaptive pants that most of us have worn at least once. They are known for being comfortable and form-fitting. Pants with an elastic waist are easy to slip on and off even if you suffer from a condition like arthritis.
The best part is that they don’t require any sort of closure. It’s even faster than putting on Velcro pants.
The material in the waistline makes it possible for the pants to shrink or grow with the senior. This can be extremely helpful for seniors who are known to fluctuate in weight.
Older adults who take a variety of medications often experience fluctuations in weight. Pants with a comfortable elastic waist won’t need to be replaced during these changes.
4. Open Back Clothing and Gowns
Adaptive clothing may also be any type of clothing that has been designed to make it easier for seniors to wear and access certain equipment. Designers often accomplish this by leaving stylish gaps in certain areas of the clothing.
In some cases, the gap may be covered by a second piece of overlaying fabric. The second piece of fabric will be held in place with a magnet or a Velcro patch. The senior can choose to keep the open sides open when necessary and closed when they are not needed.
5. Pullover Tops
Another way to completely eliminate pesky closure devices is by wearing a pullover top. It’s a simple design concept that is already popular even for people without disabilities.
There are some potential disadvantages of the pullover technique. First, the senior may struggle to find the neckline when getting dressed. It’s best to look for adaptive clothes that have a wide hole for the head or shoulder openings that can be closed with magnets or Velcro.
Second, it requires that they have the strength to lift their hands fully above their head to remove the shirt.
6. Rear Closure Tops and Pants
Clothes with rear closure mechanisms are more common in patients with severe disabilities. The major advantage of rear closure is that it is often easier for the caretaker to help change the clothes.
If the caretaker is doing most of the work when it’s time to change, then investing in rear closure tops and pants can speed the process along.
7. Socks and Shoes
The most common type of adaptive shoes uses Velcro instead of laces. Velcro works just as well for holding a firm grip. It’s also much easier to put on and take off.
Socks may also have simple adaptive designs implemented as well. A common example is a large loop at the back of the sock. This makes it easier to grab the sock and pull it into position. The elderly want to spend as little time as possible bent over pulling socks and tying shoes.
Where Can You Buy Easy-On Clothes for the Elderly?
Dozens of brands and stores now sell easy-on adaptive clothing for the elderly. You can even find a large selection in big box stores like Target and Walmart.
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Ovidis is a specialty manufacturer of clothing 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!
How Can You Make Dressing Easier for the Elderly?
The best approach is to be patient, mindful of their condition, and helpful when necessary. Simply investing in a larger selection of adaptive clothing will make the process much easier.
Seniors who previously struggled to get dressed in the morning may be able to do the job on their own with the help of adaptive clothing.
How Do Easy-On Clothes Make Caring for an Elderly Person Easier?
Their biggest advantage is that they reduce the amount of time wasted getting dressed and undressed. It’s easy to lose several hours each year spent helping an elderly person get dressed.
Trying to work zippers, laces, or buttons on another person is rarely easy. Easy-on clothes can help condense a thirty-minute job into a five-minute job.
Tips to Make Getting an Elderly Person Dressed Easier on Them (and You!)
- Set aside enough time for dressing – Even with adaptive clothing, a senior may move slowly and take their time. Keep that in mind ahead of schedule so that you aren’t pressed for time when it counts.
- Keep it simple – If you are choosing clothing options, then keep it limited to only two or three combinations. Too many options can be overwhelming and cause confusion.
- Make adaptive modifications – You can modify some of the senior’s existing clothes to include a Velcro closure. If there are certain articles of clothing they wear frequently, then this can save you plenty of time in the long run.