The benefits of adaptive clothing for seniors and caregivers

Can the right clothing help your senior loved one with mobility issues feel more confident, independent, and stay physically and socially active? Sounds like a tall order for a new fall outfit, but a 2017 study in Applied Ergonomics found that people living with disabilities, their families, and caregivers reported that a lack of adaptive clothing was a barrier to enjoying social activities, special events and exercising.*

So, what is adaptive clothing, and how can it help improve quality of life for your older loved one?

Adaptive clothing options are designed to meet the needs of people—including seniors, those with disabilities or mobility challenges, or other health conditions—who require an easier, more accessible way to get dressed. It should be easy to put on and take off, comfortable to wear, and purposely tailored for specific conditions, such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and edema.*

Well-designed adaptive fashions grant greater independence, allowing people to continue to dress themselves, despite any health challenges. If, however, even with adaptive clothing, your senior loved one needs assistance with dressing, these specialized garments can be extremely helpful for families and caregivers who provide dressing support. A simpler experience—and one with more dignity—can be enjoyed by all.

Examples of adaptive clothing include:

  • Pants, shirts, dresses and outerwear with Velcro or magnetic closures—easier for people who have difficulty with fine motor skills
  • Higher elastic waistbands that don’t slip down—helpful for people in wheelchairs
  • Soft and stretchy fabrics without tags and sewn with flat seams—helpful in preventing chafing and allowing for ease of movement
  • Garments with larger armholes and back and frontal openings—easier and faster to put on
  • Strategically placed zippers—provide easier access
  • Shoes and slippers with extra-wide Velcro closures—helpful for swollen feet and diabetic conditions

Equally important to comfort and convenience is style. As the Applied Ergonomics study demonstrated, looking good encourages self-confidence in social and physical activities, regardless of age or ability. Seniors who stay socially connected, for example, enjoy many health benefits.

Google “adaptive clothing Canada” and you’ll find several online and bricks-and-mortar retailers offering stylish, high-quality adaptive fashions. You can also approach health care professionals in your community or within your senior’s retirement residence for recommendations.

Most of all, it’s important to talk—and listen—to your senior loved one about any struggles they may be having with clothing, and what, if any, help they require.

*The following sources provided references for this blog, in order of appearance:

  1. (Applied Ergonomics). “Clothing-related barriers experienced by people with mobility disabilities and impairments.” (March 2017), online:
  2. “Adaptive clothing.” (Updated Aug. 23, 2021), online: