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What is Adaptive Clothing

Adaptive clothing is 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 needs, here are some of the many different types of adaptive clothing options that could help.

For self-dressing older adults who suffer from Parkinson’s or other disabilities that affect dexterity, there are pants, shirts, dresses and outerwear made with Velcro or magnetic closures instead of buttons and zippers, which are much easier to fasten and unfasten. But 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 that are easier to pull on. And 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 back 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 you can purchase that have soft and stretchy fabrics without tags and are sewn with flat seams to help prevent chafing.

And for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease there are one-piece jumpsuits thathave a back-zipper access to prevent the wearer from disrobing inappropriately.

Where to Shop

Because each person’s dressing needs and style is 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 in “adaptive clothing” in their search engine.

You can also find a large selection at online stores that specialize in adaptive clothing like Silverts. They 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 you should visit include Joe & Bella, Ovidis, and IZ Adaptive, which sells clothing primarily designed for wheelchair users.

And, if you need 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, along with Billy Footwear and Friendly Shoes, which makes uniquely designed zip-on shoes.

Jim Miller publishes the Savvy Senior, a nationally syndicated column that offers advice for Boomers and Older Adults.

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