Adaptive Clothing for Seniors

Last updated: September 08, 2008

My friend Jessie prided herself on living as independently as she possibly could as her body weakened in a kind of variety pack of aging. Of all her debilitating ailments (broken hip, weakening heart and kidneys), one of the hardest things for her to deal with was her arthritis. Her hands and fingers were stiff and painful.

Not quite a fashion queen but a woman who took pleasure in clothes, Jessie was particularly bugged by the difficulty she had dressing. She couldn’t do small buttons; same with bitsy zippers. Tying laces; forget about it. I remember watching her struggle with her favorite winter jacket. I offered to help, and she snorted (as she usually did): “No, I can do it myself.” The truth was, she couldn’t.

This isn't an unusal problem for older people, and it's one that really takes a hit on self-esteem. Arthritis isn’t the only condition affecting the ability to dress. Many people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia are irritated by clothing and can’t follow the logic of dressing. (“Inappropriate undressing” is an issue for some, who pull their clothes off to bring relief.) Paralysis and mobility problems bring dressing challenges.

Enter the universe of “adaptive clothing for seniors.” I like sharing helpful tidbits I’ve learned along the way as I write about aging. Plain-wrapper adult diapers was one; Alzheimer’s dentists another. I call them “heart gems.” I could also call them, “Jeeze, who knew?” Adaptive clothing is more than one heart gem, it’s a store-filled collection.

  • Arthritis clothes: Large-zipper toggles; easy closures. Easy to put on and take off independently.
  • Alzheimer’s clothes: Loose fitting; soft fabrics; wide openings; super easy to dress someone with minimal hassle. Special clothes for “inappropriate undressers,” designed to stay on even when tugged and pulled.
  • Elastic-waisted, tie-on, or fold-on pants, shorts, skirts, you name it. No need to fumble with closures.
  • Slip-on; fold-on shoes, even dress shoes; no laces or buckles; stable and comfortable.
  • Wheelchair clothes; Easy to put on/take off without needing to stand and with minimal moving around.

They’re easy to find online by searching on terms like: senior adaptive clothing, clothing for seniors, adaptive clothing, Alzheimer’s clothing, or arthritis clothing. You'll find numerous on-line stores. Many include helpful information to make shopping easier. Medical supply stores also sell adaptive clothing, online or offline. Call first to see what they have in stock.

This isn't a world of drab, baggy clothing! (Though sure, there's some of this.) I was pleased to see an emphasis on fashion, color, and design – as well as on comfort. I can practically feel the de-stressing; the self-esteem rebuilding.

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6 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 1 year ago

For those on a budget, I developed my own idea for my MIL who was digging in her diaper. I took a shirt and pair of shorts and sewed them together at the bottom of the shirt and waist of the shorts. Then, because she also wears a catheter and is bedridden, I wanted to make it easier for bathing in bed and changing. So, I cut directly up the center of the back of the shirt and on the back seam up the center of the shorts. I also cut along the inner seams of the legs of the shorts underneath, so I have it all open. Then, I sewed ties up the back of the shorts and shirt so as to be able to tie them closed and open it easily when needed. As for the seam along the under part of the shorts, I put buttons. It turns out to be like an adult onesy but with the back ties and buttons on the leg seams instead. It has worked wonders let me tell you! No longer do I wake up to her having a mess on her hands and under her nails. It keep her healthier and sanitary and gives me a piece of mind when I have to sleep at night. Also, it helps to have shorts with the catheter because it sticks out the bottom of the short leg still. If anyone would like a picture, please send me a reply. I will gladly send ones of the front and back of the outfit.

over 2 years ago

A place where I have found really, colorful, stylish and easy to dress/wear garments for elderly, handicapped, bedconfined, or someone difficult to dress because of their age is at ''. I hope this helps! They are really popular.--grandma

over 2 years ago

"Bak n the day" my gma was a very shnazzy dresser, these days it's so disappointing 2 c her wear big t-shirts n sweatshirts, but now I understand y. Thnx again 4 ur insite!

almost 4 years ago

My younger sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 50. She has recently asked me to find more comfortable clothing. Her jeans are no longer an option because the zipper bothers and confuses her. I am always thankful for new ideas and advice as we navigate these murky waters together. is a gift. I'm at the point where I'm learning what I don't know and feel as if I'm in control thanks to the fabulous information and caring individuals. It's nice to know I'm not alone and I have help. Thank you and happy Holidays!

almost 4 years ago

The information you send me is so very helpful and encouraging in my walk as a caregiver to my husband. THANK YOU

about 6 years ago

Hi there, My name is Talia Goldfarb, and I am the co-founder of Myself Belts - a one handed belt that promotes independence and assists with easy dressing. Our patented closure is an award winning design that allows people to fasten and unfasten their belt with only one hand. Perfect for individuals with hand dexterity difficulties, the Myself Belt helps to restore dignity and improve day to day life. The adult Myself Belts are available in a variety of sizes to fit 27-40 inch waists and are currently offered in brown leather. More styles should be along soon! Please visit our website at for more information. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at Have a great day! -Talia

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