How to Help Your Senior Dress with Success: These Shoes Won’t Let Me In!

Age-related health challenges like arthritis and reduced mobility mean that many seniors struggle with getting dressed.

Adapting your senior’s clothing for their current capabilities creates a win-win situation. The ability to dress themselves reduces frustration, helps maintain their independence and gives them a sense of control.

senior in assisted living trying to get shoe on
Surprising Options

The world of adaptive clothing offers things like:

  • Pants with side zippers which are easier to use than front zippers
  • Magnetic belt buckles 
  • Front-closure bras
  • Extra wide slippers that velcro completely open/shut, accommodating swollen feet
  • Socks with extra wide tops are easier to put on
  • T-shirts that snap in the back so they are put on from the front without arms being having to be raised above the head
  • Snap back duster-style dresses, eliminate the challenges pants can pose
  • Non-binding elastic waistbands on roomy and stretchy pants allow for fewer adjustments after transfers
  • Wheelchair pants with discreet flaps on the backside make bathroom trips and incontinence easier to manage
  • A wheelchair blanket that snaps to the arm handles so it won’t slip off
Adaptive Clothing Companies

Several companies specialize in adaptive clothing:
1. Canadian-based Silverts allows you to shop based on your senior’s specific condition and has a wide range of colors and patterns.
2. Buck and Buck, a 40+ year old U.S. based company, features items with simple, basic styling.


Alternatively, a tailor or alterations person (usually drycleaners have this service) modifies your senior’s current clothes. For example, buttons become permanently sewn to the outside of a shirt/pants and velcro attachments are hidden right behind them.

Altering existing clothes proved the best option for my dad. He donned the same kind of button-up shirt for 40 years and didn’t like pullover shirts. Adapting his favorite shirts so that he could velcro the buttons maintained his independence and made him feel “like himself.”

If you are up for a simple sewing adventure or have a friend who is, here’s a tutorial showing how to replace buttons with velcro. 

Simple Solutions

Lastly, these 3 tips help a senior get dressed by themselves:

  1. A dressing stick makes putting on shoes, socks, shirts and pants less of a struggle.
  2. A visit from an occupational therapist maximizes your senior’s current strengths and abilities.
  3. A paperclip looped into the hole in a zipper handle makes it much easier to grasp and pull.May your new year be filled with joy, your zippers zipped and your velcro firmly attached!