The Right Nail Care for Seniors and the Elderly


You can have healthy, beautiful nails regardless of your age. Following tips like maintaining a proper diet and keeping your nails clean, dry, trimmed, and shaped are important. Consider your choice of nail care tools too. Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to care for the nails of seniors and elders.

Certified Senior Advisor®
Senior Home Safety Specialist®
20 years of medical equipment experience
Compassionately helping seniors and their caregivers solve challenges of aging
senior woman having nail care done by caregiver
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Taking care of your nails becomes increasingly difficult with age. As we age, our nails are more prone to breaking and getting fungus infections. Nails become brittle. This seems to be especially common in women as osteoporosis sets in.

Keeping healthy nails comes with healthy habits that support growth and hygiene. Many of the same healthy habits that lead to great nail growth and maintenance in seniors can help younger people as well.

It’s important to remember that your nails are going to change as you age. While proper maintenance can make a world of difference, the change in appearance is natural and normal.

Video Guide: Choosing Nail Clippers for Seniors

How Seniors Can Keep Nails Healthy

Consider these healthy nail care habits to make your fingernails and toenails look great everyday.

Eat a Proper Diet

Nails need nutrients to stay strong and grow. Plus, eating a balanced diet looks after our health as well. Consider consuming foods like eggs for biotin and Zinc. Nuts, such as almonds, give your body the much needed vitamin E it needs to produce healthy nails. Consuming a lot of collagen helps as well. The easiest way to do this is to take supplements.

Proper diet and nail care will keep your nails healthy regardless of your age.

Keep Your Nails Clean and Dry

Our nails are an excellent place of storage for bacteria. This can be especially true if you keep your nails long. Make sure to keep dirt from getting under your fingernails by washing your hands thoroughly. For the most part, our finger nails become clean after we shampoo. Our hands are also cleaned by the lathering process.

We are more prone to fungal infections as we get older. To make sure these infections do not happen, you should keep your hands dry after you wash them. It’s especially important to dry your hands after doing the dishes. Fungus loves moisture.

Do Not Use Your Nails as Tools

Many of us use our nails as tools. It’s common for us to try and open packages with our nails. It’s best to get a knife or a pair of scissors for this task. Opening things with nails can mean breaking them.

Do Not Get a Gel Manicure

While it’s tempting to get a gel manicure as they last longer, for healthier fingernails for seniors just use regular polish when it comes to the health of your nails. Gel manicures can wear down your nails as the adhesive is much stronger. This goes for false nails as well.

senior woman getting her finger nails painted red during a manicure
Use regular nail polish and avoid harsh adhesives from gel or false nails.

Keep Your Nails Shaped

Shaped nails are less likely to suffer from damage. A chip in the nail often grows and can create more problems. Even a little unevenness can make your nails more likely to break. File and cut your nails every two to three weeks. Depending on how fast your nails grow, you may need to do this more often.

Use an Electronic Nail Clipper

Electronic nail clippers are often the best to use for nail care for the elderly. As we lose dexterity and strength, it can be difficult to keep nails properly groomed. Electronic nail clippers are easy to use and only require the push of a button. Consider asking someone else to do it if you are unsure of whether or not you can do it yourself.

Foot Soak

Many seniors have thicker nails due to diabetes requiring safe toenail clippers. It is much tougher to care for the toenails of seniors. Are you having to get pedicures? It may be that you’ve given up on the process. Instead of wasting money, you can soak your foot in Epson salt to soften them. It makes cutting your toenails a lot easier. The nail and cuticle will soften. Some electronic nail cutters come with a special blade that’s designed to cut thick nails.

Always Wear Socks and Shoes

It is in the best interest of your toenails that you do not go barefoot. This doesn’t include the occasional walk down the beach. Wearing socks and shoes can decrease the chance of debris getting under your toenails. It can also prevent the chance of wear and tear. The callouses are protected just in case there’s a fall that could dislodge your nails.

woman giving her senior mother a manicure
Ask for help with your nail care! Doing your nails with daughters and granddaughters is a great bonding experience.

Get Someone Else to Do It if Need Be

It’s never wise to cut your nails if you aren’t sure if you can. A trusted family member is a great person to get to assist you. A health care provider may do it as well. If you have no one to help you, you can go to a salon and have it done.

If you have arthritis it can even be painful to cut your own nails. There are nail clippers for seniors with arthritis that are easier to use. Those who have vision, neurological, or dexterity problems should not do it themselves.

Why Is Right Nail Care for Seniors So Important?

Keeping your nails in top condition can increase your level of comfort. Seniors are often prone to getting fungus infections under their nail bed. These infections can lead to discomfort and an unpleasing appearance. It also just feels better to be properly groomed. Senior nails require extra consideration and care. As long as you follow these tips, your nails should be just fine regardless of age!

So you have other nail care tips for seniors to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Senior Home Safety Specialist (SHSS)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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