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Adaptive clothing takes the stress out of dressing

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 of special clothing known as “adaptive clothing,” which can help with most dressing challenges. Here’s what you should know.

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 mom’s needs, here are some examples of the many 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 replace buttons and zippers. These are much easier to fasten and unfasten. But be aware that magnetic closures are not suitable for people 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. Likewise, a wide range of rear-closure shirts, tops and dresses are outfitted with Velcro or snap fasteners in the back. These are especially suited for those who can’t raise their arms over their head.

For wheelchair users, pants with higher backs and elastic waistbands prevent the garment from slipping down. Other pants with fabric overlaps at the seat allow for easier toileting access.

For people with tactile sensitivity, there are tagless garments made of soft and stretchy fabrics. They are sewn with flat seams to help preventing chafing.

And for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, one-piece jumpsuits with a back-zipper access prevents the wearer from disrobing inappropriately.

Where to shop?

Because each person’s dressing needs and style are so specific, finding appropriate adaptive clothing can take time and effort.

Recently, mainstream clothing stores such as JCPenney (jcpenney.com), Target (target.com) and Tommy Hilfiger (usa.tommy.com) have begun offering adaptive clothing that combines fashion and functionality, though their in-store options are limited. To see a bigger selection, visit the stores’ websites and type in “adaptive clothing” in their search engine.

You can also find a large selection at online stores that specialize in adaptive clothing, such as Buck & Buck (buckandbuck.com) and Silverts (silverts.com). Both of these companies have been selling adaptive clothing for decades and offer a variety of garments to accommodate almost any need, condition or style.

Other recommended adaptive clothing sites: Joe & Bella (joeandbella.com), Ovidis (ovidis.com) and IZ Adaptive (izadaptive.com), which sells clothing primarily designed for wheelchair users.

And, 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 new lines of adaptive shoes that might interest her include Kiziks (kizik.com) and Zeba (zebashoes.com), which make fashionable sneakers and comfortable walking shoes that slip on, hands-free. Billy Footwear (billy footwear.com) and Friendly Shoes (friendlyshoes.com) make uniquely designed zip-on shoes.


Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.


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