Saturday, January 14, 2006


Common standards on old age in the past did not generally consider older people in terms of fashion. To satisfy prevailing tastes, older men were expected to wear formal suits while women had to wear pale, muted, or dull colors. The effect of clothing on the self-image of the old went unnoticed. Fortunately, the dull, drab tradition of elder-wear was swept aside in the clothing style revolution of the 1960s, though perhaps not to the same degree as among the youth. On the whole, however, older people today have greater latitude to indulge personal tastes, express their freedom, and chose clothing for style or comfort as they will.
For people who need to assist dependent older family members with the choice of clothing, it is important to keep in mind certain principles that should govern the selection of clothing throughout life. Clothing helps to give one a measure of personal identity, a high (or low, unfortunately) self-image, and a sense of comfort and security. For individuals who have restricted body movement due to arthritis, an injury, or an operation, a sense of competence can be maintained by use of apparel that's easy to put on--clothing with Velcro fasteners, large sized buttons and button holes, zippers, pre-tied neck ties, and simple buckles, for example. Practical clothing choices also make sense. Long robes and slip-on slippers, while seemingly comfortable and casual, need to be avoided because they can cause the wearer to trip. Shoes with laces and low broad heels can prevent tripping.
Because circulation slows with age, garters and girdles don't make sense for older women, nor do rolling down or twisting of stocking tops below the knee. Older men need to shun the calf strangling elastic top socks that have become standard in most department stores. Likewise, underclothes should not constrain nor restrict the crotch or armpits. Because incontinence, due to weakening of muscles used to control elimination, can sometimes be a problem, it may be necessary for some persons to wear underclothing that is absorbent and easy to launder. Warm clothing, made of smooth fabric that does not irritate the skin, with full-length sleeves, also makes sense.
To overcome visual disabilities that may interfere with dressing, it is sensible to provide bright lights in dressing areas, arrange clothing in drawers and closets according to color schemes, and hang blouses and matching slacks and jackets on the same hanger. If a member of the family must move to a nursing home, it is useful to remember that nursing homes and summer camps share something in common-laundry gets mixed -- so the wise relative will see to it that the nursing home resident's clothing is labeled with indelible ink.
Gillies, J. A Guide to Caring for and Coping with Aging Parents. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1981.


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