The Benefits of Adaptive Clothing for Older Adults in Wheelchairs

The days of ill-fitting and unfashionable wheelchair clothing for the elderly and disabled are gone. Fashion designers and companies have brought adaptive clothing for seniors into the mainstream. How? By focusing equally on functionality, comfort, and style. With technological advancements and modifications tailored to the needs of older adults and people with limited mobility, adaptive clothing offers a wide variety of benefits that can make life easier for caretakers and older adults in wheelchairs.

Key Elements of Adaptive Clothing for Seniors

Adaptive clothing items are different from everyday garments thanks to key elements that make them particularly useful for people in wheelchairs. The term “adaptive” refers to clothing, accessories, and footwear specially designed with the dressing needs of seniors and the disabled in mind. The modified or specially tailored clothing is for people with limited mobility who use wheelchairs or other assistive mobile devices. It’s especially practical for seniors who are unable to dress themselves, have difficulty manipulating buttons and zippers, and experience pain or other medical issues that make regular clothing unbearable.

Some of the essential features of adaptive clothing for wheelchair users are:

  • Made from nonabrasive and durable fabric
  • Use velcro, easy-pull tabs and loops, and magnetic snaps
  • Increased number of closure areas for simple dressing
  • Hold up to continuous use and regular cleaning
  • Cut to fall naturally and elegantly while the wearer is seated

Getting dressed in traditional clothing can be unsafe and painful for many older adults, especially wheelchair users. Off-the-rack garments tend to be more rigid and difficult to manipulate. Adaptive clothing features design elements that allow caretakers and people with limited mobility to put on and take off garments comfortably and safely. Open-back shirts and dresses, pants with extra zippers on the legs, and items with accessible pull-on loops are examples of adaptive clothing that makes life easier for older adults and their caretakers.

A woman finds comfortable, stylish clothes for women in wheelchairs.

The Evolution of Clothing for Wheelchair Users

Clothing for the elderly and people living with disabilities and limited mobility has evolved in leaps and bounds over the last two decades. The clothing that wheelchair users had access to in the past was utilitarian, not fashionable. That has changed dramatically thanks to companies who are combining style and design to offer adaptive clothing in a range of colors, patterns, prints, and styles. Adaptive clothing for the elderly has shifted from being strictly functional to being elegant and fun, which promotes independence and overall well-being.

Adaptive Clothing for Senior Men

Older men who use wheelchairs can find adaptive clothing for just about any occasion. From open-back graphic tees to chinos with side zippers, the options are far more advanced, stylish, and varied than they used to be. Important items such as extra-wide velcro-closure shoes and catheter-accessible pants are available in many different types of styles. 

Adaptive pants for wheelchair users also come in a variety of fabrics, including flannel, fleece, stretchy denim, and elegant khaki. Combine those options with magnetic-closure button-down shirts and adaptive polos, and older adult men can have an entire wardrobe of comfortable, safe, and stylish adaptive clothing.

Adaptive Clothing for Senior Women

Older adult women arguably have even more options than men when it comes to adaptive clothing. Dresses for ladies in wheelchairs come in a large variety of styles and cuts. Companies now focus on offering diverse options for necklines, lengths, and types of fabric. Knitwear and velvet dresses are available to dress for colder weather while flowing, knee-length dresses and collared cotton dresses are great options for warm temperatures and special events. 

Women can pair items such as open-back long-sleeve shirts with velcro front-closure skirts or wear durable adaptive pants and flowing tops in an array of colors and patterns. Clothes for women in wheelchairs can be as eye-catching and elegant as off-the-rack items in any department store. 

How To Navigate the Adaptive Clothing Industry

While some adaptive clothing may be available in department stores and brick-and-mortar shops, the adaptive clothing industry has largely moved online. There are resources and guides available on the internet that help people choose styles and items based on the type of medical issue or dressing needs of older adults and people in wheelchairs. 

Caretakers and older adults can choose garments specifically designed for post-surgery recovery, dementia, and other health concerns, but there are also many options for older adults who will continue to dress independently. Some companies offer brand-name clothing for the elderly or disabled, while others make universally designed wheelchair clothing with a range of needs in mind. 

Another clothing option for the elderly or disabled is to buy pieces off the rack and have them tailored. Adaptive clothing alteration companies like Stitch It can make dressing more comfortable and stylish by adapting seniors’ existing wheelchair clothing. Meanwhile, the Real Men Real Style website offers tools to educate visitors so they can build a wardrobe that best complements their lifestyle.

An older adult finds comfortable clothes that adapt to their wheelchair use.

Where To Buy Adaptive Clothing for Wheelchair Users

New Mobility writer Kate Matelan offers resources to help take the guesswork out of finding wheelchair clothing. She also dispels fashion myths about clothes for wheelchair users. Yes, she assures readers, adaptive clothes are stylish, today’s fabrics have plenty of stretch, garments can be easy on and off as well as fashion-forward, and if there’s a particular article of clothing that someone wants, there’s a way to make an equivalent garment that is adaptive, safe, and comfortable.

At Chairmelotte, all their garments are specially cut for sitting. A 90-degree curve in the pattern ensures the panels follow the lines of a body in a sitting position. The company also offers formal clothing for seniors to wear to a party or special occasion.

Caring Village is an online community offering resources, products, and information for caregivers who want to use technology to help coordinate care for loved ones. The site highlights five top adaptive clothing companies, including:

  • Silvert’s Adaptive Clothing & Footwear consults with customers, caregivers, and healthcare professionals on ways to incorporate style into wheelchair clothing while making it functional for those with decreased mobility levels.
  • Able2Wear and Easy Access Clothing offer fashionable collections of adaptive clothing and products for wheelchair users of all ages and degrees of ability.
  • Adaptations by Adrian offers unique items, like bus passes and cell phone holders, for people of all ages along with stylish adult bibs and clothing protectors, wheelchair shirts and jackets with open backs, wheelchair pants and loungewear with hook and loop closures, and specialized foot and winter wear.
  • The mission of IZ Adaptive is to “provide timeless adaptive clothing to as many people as possible” so they can live in “comfort, style, dignity and empowerment.” The collection has signature styles and cuts designed for a seated body.

The Truth About Senior Adaptive Clothing

The truth about adaptive clothing for older adults in wheelchairs is that it can tick many of the boxes that any person would want to check off when getting dressed. Adaptive clothing today is stylish, comfortable, and functional. When older adults in wheelchairs can dress and undress with minimal assistance, it allows them to retain their dignity. They can choose clothing they enjoy and experience independence and safety while getting dressed. With styles and designs unique to any physical challenge, adaptive clothing for wheelchair users can help people feel more confident about putting on clothes, both physically and psychologically.Eldercare Alliance and its five senior living communities throughout the Bay Area and beyond are here to help older adults live at the highest level of independence and dignity. See what we offer!

For help or more information contact us or schedule a visit at a location today.