Adaptive Clothing Takes the Stress Out of Dressing

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What kinds of clothing options are available to mobility challenged seniors who have a difficult time dressing?

Looking for Mom

Dear Looking,

The chore of dressing and undressing in traditional clothing can be difficult, time-consuming and even painful for millions of people with certain health and mobility problems. Fortunately, there’s a wide variety special clothing, known as “adaptive clothing,” that can help with most dressing challenges. Here’s what you should know.

What is adaptive clothing?

Adaptive clothing refers to specially designed garments for people with mobility issues, disabilities and cognitive challenges who have a difficult time getting dressed. This type of clothing incorporates discreet design features to make dressing and undressing easier, while still having the outward appearance of typical clothing.

Depending on your mom’s needs, here are some of the many different types of adaptive clothing options that could help.

For self-dressing seniors who suffer from Parkinson’s or other disabilities that affect dexterity, there are pants, shirts, dresses and outerwear made with Velcro or magnetic closures that are easier to fasten and unfasten than buttons and zippers. However, be aware that magnetic closures are not suitable for those who have pacemakers.

For those who are disabled or who have limited range of motion and need assistance dressing, there are adaptive pants with zippers or snaps on both sides of the pants, making them easier to pull on. There are also a wide range of rear closure shirts, tops and dresses with Velcro or snap fasteners in the back for those who can’t raise their arms over their head.

For wheelchair users, there are higher backed and elastic waistband pants that don’t slip down, as well as pants with fabric overlaps at the seat to allow for easier toileting access.

For people with tactile sensitivity, there are garments that have soft and stretchy fabrics without tags and that are sewn with flat seams to help preventing chafing.

For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, there are one-piece jumpsuits that have back-zipper access to prevent the wearer from disrobing inappropriately.

Where to shop?

Because each person’s dressing needs and styles are so specific, finding appropriate adaptive clothing can be difficult.

Recently, mainstream clothing stores like JCPenney (, Target ( and Tommy Hilfiger ( have started offering a line of adaptive clothing for adults that combines fashion and functionality, but their instore options are limited. To get a bigger selection, visit the store’s website and type “adaptive clothing” into their search engine.

You can also find a large selection at online stores like Buck & Buck ( and Silverts (, which specialize in adaptive clothing. Both of these companies have been selling adaptive clothing for decades and offer a wide variety of garments to accommodate almost any need, condition or style, for independent self-dressers and for those who need help.

Some other adaptive clothing sites include Joe & Bella (, Ovidis (, and IZ Adaptive ( The latter sells clothing primarily designed for wheelchair users.

Also, if your mom is in need of adaptive footwear, Velcro-fastening shoes (instead of shoelaces) have long been a popular option and can be found in most local shoe stores.

Some other new lines of adaptive shoes that may interest her include Kiziks ( and Zeba (, which make fashionable sneakers and comfortable walking shoes that just slip on, hands-free. For uniquely designed zip-on shoes, check out Billy Footwear ( and Friendly Shoes (

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.


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