When it comes to senior fashion, functionality takes precedence over style. Unlike young adults, seniors have a tougher time regulating a consistent body temperature of 98.6°F. As we age, our bodies become less efficient at retaining heat, leading to lower average temperatures the older we get. Thick, knitted sweaters on a breezy afternoon or paper-thin t-shirts during the summertime lower the chances of complications related to temperature regulation.
In addition to battling the cold and warm weather, seniors with disabilities may also require specialized clothes to help with their daily dressing process. For caretakers, this means a different approach to dressing and outfitting our loved ones.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
What feels like a cool breeze to you may not be the same for your loved one. The average body temperature is 98.6°F, but anything lower than 96°F elevates the risk of major health problems. Concerns range from shivering and a weak pulse to an irregular heartbeat. If left unattended, a senior can come down with a case of hypothermia, which may sound like an exaggeration, but the Cleveland Clinic has even reported on the incidence of indoor cases of hypothermia in senior citizens.
To avoid this, layer your loved one with thick and warm clothing to maintain a healthy, consistent body temperature. Since seniors experience weather differently than young adults, make sure you communicate with your loved one and ask if they need additional layers. Ask the caregivers at their Assisted Living community if you need to provide spare blankets, scarves, and socks to keep around your loved one’s apartment.
It’s Getting Hot in Here, So Take Off (Some of) Your Clothes
Dressing for warm weather can be just as tricky as cold climates. In the same way, senior bodies cannot properly warm up, they also lack the ability to cool down. Poor blood circulation, inefficient sweat glands, and complications with medication can put your loved one at risk for overheating or heat stroke.
Dress your loved one in lightweight and light-colored clothes made of breathable fabrics such as cotton. The clothes will provide enough protection from direct sun and allow your loved one to sweat off the heat. If possible, keep your loved one away from the sun during physical activities. On especially warm days, encourage them to use the treadmill at the on-site gym instead of walking around the local park.
Adaptive Clothing for Disabled Seniors
Changing a loved one’s clothing can be incredibly difficult, especially if they have a disability. Caregivers must use extra caution when moving arms into shirts and legs into pants to avoid injuries. Adaptive attire simplifies the changing process by tailoring certain aspects of a garment to make them easier to put on while increasing comfort and safety. Examples include:
- Back-Opening Tops – Seniors with decreased upper body mobility have trouble putting on shirts and sweaters. Back-opening tops solve this problem with their buttoned or zipped backs that allow for easy changing.
- Anti-Stripper Jumpsuits – Those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia often experience the chronic urge to undress. Similar to back-opening tops, anti-stripper jumpsuits are full-body suits with back openings to prevent your loved one from removing their garment.
- Non-Compression Clothing – Edema, or the swelling of the arms and legs as a result of fluid accumulation, is common among seniors with kidney disease or diabetes. Many clothing items such as pants and socks have an elastic material that can bind the arms and legs and reduce blood circulation. Non-compression clothing has a looser fit that will not restrict blood flow.
Outfits for Any Occasion
Caregivers and family members must take into consideration all the ways in which a senior outfit is constructed. The weather outside, the temperate indoors, and disabilities all have an impact on the decisions we must make before changing our loved ones into their daily attire. With a solid understanding of how senior bodies handle temperatures and the ways in which disabilities can limit clothing, we can offer our loved ones a better, more enjoyable set of threads to live in.