What Are The Different Types Of Adaptive Clothing?

Certified Senior Advisor®
Senior Home Safety Specialist®
20 years of medical equipment experience
Compassionately helping seniors and their caregivers solve challenges of aging

Adaptive clothing focuses on making dressing easier for seniors and those with physical disabilities. This kind of clothing benefits not only the wearer but also the caregiver, if applicable. Here, you will discover the different types of adaptive clothing available for you or your elderly loved one.

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Different Types Of Adaptive Clothing

Getting dressed in the morning and getting undressed in the evening is a basic task that most people perform every day without too much of a struggle. However, it can get difficult for seniors, people with physical disabilities, and the infirm for a variety of reasons.

The person’s range of motion is usually decreased, thus making some tasks more difficult. The ability to do fine movements can also create challenges. Furthermore, clothing can sometimes be confusing with multiple layers or straps that can make them complex to get on.

Adaptive clothing is aimed at addressing all these problems. It generally follows an easy, slip-on, or rear closure design to make dressing easier for both the wearer and caregiver. It also gives the wearer a sense of comfort and boosts their self-esteem.

What Is Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is the clothing, footwear, and garments designed specifically for the elderly, the infirm, people with physical disabilities, along with post-surgical patients that may find it difficult to dress themselves due to their inability to manipulate closures, such as zippers and buttons, or because of a lack of a full range of motion that’s needed for self-dressing, e.g., arthritis sufferers, paraplegics, quadriplegics, etc.

different types of adaptive clothing help
Adaptive clothing makes dressing and undressing an easier experience.

How Does Adaptive Clothing Help Seniors and the Disabled?

Adaptive clothing for seniors and the elderly helps remove barriers by making dressing easier, prolonging independence, and promoting activity. For seniors and the disabled, along with their caregivers, adaptive clothing helps overcome challenges that stem from physical limitations.

Here are some of the specific ways that adaptive clothing helps seniors and the disabled.

Making Dressing and Undressing Easier

If you have a loved one who’s suffering from painful joints and muscles along with other mobility issues, you probably know just how hard it can be to help them dress and undress.

Sometimes you are unable to bear the pain they endure when raising their arms and/or legs. Adapting clothing aims to address that issue by making it easier to put on and take off clothes.

Promoting Independence

Adaptive clothing is designed in such a way that seniors and the disabled can easily dress and undress on their own because of its features such as stretchy material, easy access snaps, Velcro straps, and more.

Being able to dress and undress themselves can give seniors and the disabled the independence and confidence that they need.

Reducing Incontinence Issues

Incontinence, especially among seniors, is usually linked to being unable to reach the bathroom in time. Prostate problems and an overactive bladder can both make the problem worse since the urge to use the bathroom are both sudden and severe.

Any change that makes it less stressful and easier to go to the bathroom can help in reducing the risk of incontinence accidents, and one of the key benefits of adaptive clothing is that it is usually easier to get on and off.

Promoting Safety

Preventing falls is a critical safety component, especially for older adults. Most people assume that products such as walkers and bed rails are the best way to help seniors remain upright. However, for many seniors, the first fall prevention measure is smartly designed footwear. 

It is advisable for older adults to have shoes and slippers that they can easily get on before they walk across falls. Footwear that fully opens up on the top with a secured Velcro or with a wide-open heel is both excellent options.

Helping Caregivers

Adaptive clothing doesn’t just help the care recipient, they also make the lives of caregivers easier. Whether you are a professional caregiver or a family member, assisting someone to dress or undress can be stressful and may present a physical challenge.

Caregivers usually need to lift someone off a wheelchair, which puts undue pressure on their lower back. They may also need to roll someone over or lift up the lower body of the care recipient during dressing.

Adaptive clothing makes this process quicker, easier, and safer for the caregiver.

different types of adaptive clothing types
Find the most suitable type of adaptive clothing for your loved ones based on their preference and condition.

What Types of Adaptive Clothing Are Available?

The clothing options available for people with special needs are growing, which means that you have many different options available. Here are the different types of adaptive clothing that you can get for your loved one:

Velcro Clothing

Velcro closures make it much easier for those that have lost the flexible use of their fingers to put on their clothes and shoes each day. Velcro clothing is incredibly helpful for caregivers of patients who are either temporarily or permanently paralyzed.

If a disabled person has a problem with incontinence, Velcro closures allow for quick cleanups.

Magnetic Clothing Closures

Buttons can be found on virtually all types of clothing, from casual jeans to work shirts to cardigans. Unfortunately, they are often challenging to use for people with fine motor difficulties, arm paralysis, or limb difference.

Magnetic clothing closures serve as the perfect replacement for buttons since they facilitate easier dressing and undressing while minimizing any pain that might be involved.

Pull-Over Tops

Tops sometimes do away with fasteners completely and go for a pull-over design instead. Such tops and dresses are ideally used by people who still have enough upper body mobility not only to raise their arms high but also to move them around.

Ideally, they should have wider necklines so that wearers won’t be restricted when either putting them on or taking them off.

Open Back Tops/Pants

Open-back tops use either snap or Velcro closures that fasten on the back. They can help with assistive dressing because the wearer doesn’t need to lift their arms to put the top on, unlike those with an opening for the head.

With an open-back top, the caregiver just has to slide the care recipient’s arms into the sleeves that can then be easily fastened from the back.

Open-back gowns and pants are also available for people suffering from incontinence. It allows the wearer to go to the bathroom more easily and assists the caregiver in case the care recipient needs to be changed.

Open Side Panel Pants

Open-side pants are fastened on the side using Velcro. The pants are simpler to put on compared to traditional pants since they typically have a wider opening. The wearer is able to slide them on without having to struggle with zippers or bend excessively. 

Easy-On Pants with Elastic Waists

Elastic waist pants are an excellent alternative to open seat pants. They provide a comfortable fit and aren’t too tight on the waist, which makes them perfect to wear while relaxing at home and when you need to go out.

The elastic waistband means that they are very easy to pull on and take off, and you don’t have to worry about zips.

Pull-Up Tabs

Pull-up tabs are the stretchy straps located on the sides of plants, which make them easier to pull up. When released, the elastic goes back to its original position and lays flat against the waistband.

Pull-up tabs can also be found on zippers to make it easier to grip them without too much of a struggle.

Anti-Strip Clothing

Anti-strip clothing is best suited for dementia patients that tend to undress at the most inappropriate moments. This type of clothing is designed such that the wearer cannot take off his/her clothes without their caregiver’s assistance.

The clothes usually feature snap closures at the back neckline, which makes it harder for the wearer to disrobe.

How to Choose Which Type of Adaptive Clothing Would Help the Most

When choosing adaptive clothing, it is always important to focus on the user, their personal preferences, physical ability, and their lifestyle.

Here are some of the things to consider when choosing adaptive clothing: 

  • Cognitive Ability: Does the intended user have dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
  • Physical Ability: Does the intended user have a limited range of motion? Do they use a wheelchair?
  • Age and Sex: Does the clothing brand you are considering have styles appealing to and suitable for the age and sex of the intended user?
  • Design and Comfort: Is the clothing designed in such a way that it protects the wearer’s dignity? Does it provide ample coverage without being bulky?
  • Post-Surgery Considerations: Will the clothing be required for just a short time? Are there any medical devices that have to be accessed that the clothing will need to accommodate?
  • Lifestyle: Is the intended user a person that enjoys participating in physical activities such as sports?
  • Self-Dressing Vs. Assisted-Dressing: In what setting will the clothing be worn? Will the intended user be self-dressing at home, or do they have a caregiver to aid in dressing? 

Final Thoughts

Adaptive clothing is aimed at meeting the needs of people, including seniors, those with mobility challenges or disabilities, or other health conditions, that require an easier, more accessible way to get dressed.

Adaptive clothing grants the wearer greater independence since it allows them to continue dressing themselves, despite any health challenges they might be facing.

Now that you know all about the different types of adaptive clothing, you can make an informed decision when buying some for your loved one.

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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