“I say, dress to please yourself. Listen to your inner muse and take a chance. Wear something that says ‘Here I am!’ today.” – Iris Apfel, 96.

Just because a person is getting older, it doesn’t mean they have to let go of their desire to look good.

We teach children not to judge a book by it’s cover – but that’s not to say we, or that others, shouldn’t pride ourselves in having a presentable “cover”.

Appearance matters – not for society or how others see you, but for ourselves. How we look and how we dress has a large influence in how we feel about ourselves and our confidence.

A person’s appearance can influence three significant areas – dignity, identity and individuality.

So when an older person moves into aged care, they shouldn’t have to let go of that part of themselves.

It’s not something that’s talked about a lot – appearance in aged care –  but it is important to delve into what that really means to a person.

Dignity

Dignity is somewhat a challenge in aged care. People who were used to doing things for themselves at suddenly in a setting where simple tasks need assistance.

And there lies where many residents feel that they lose their dignity.

Dignity should not be mistaken for pride – it’s not their pride that stops older people from wanting to be spoon fed, or needing wear “bibs” and “adult diapers”.

Dignity can come from the simplest of things – choice.

Choice in what they wear, how they wear it, and the comfort and joy it gives them.

If an elderly person wants to dress up despite the fact they have nowhere to go or no one to visit them – let them. It’s their choice and if they want to look a certain way then you should help and support them, not stop them.

Identity

What we wear play a big part in how we see ourselves – and in turn how others treat us. Are you a bubbly person who likes to wear floral patterns? Or more of a chic personality who wears a lot of black?

You have your tastes and so do the elderly in aged care.

When a person moves into aged care, they already have to let go of so much of their identity. They leave their family home, along with many belongings that they’ve cherished for years.

In a nursing home setting, these residents want to hold on to a part of who they are – their old identity. Something as simple as a night dress they cherish or the way they style their hair can make them feel more like himself.

It is important for self-esteem and self-knowledge – which in turn, helps with mental health and overall mood.

Individuality

Imagine if they made everyone in aged care wear the same thing all the time. It would be like being in school again with the uniforms.

Or worse – like being in hospital.

However, in a hospital, they “uniform” is only temporary and it is not expected that a person would be there long term.

But in aged care, that’s meant to be a resident’s home. A place where they can be as similar or as different as they choose to be.

Whilst some people with dementia lose all interest in clothing, others still like having the choice.

As a person loses some of their functions and their world becomes smaller, the things closest to them become more important and so their clothes need to feel and look good to them.

In the end, how a resident looks isn’t what’s important. It’s how their appearance makes them feel.

Aged care residents deserve to maintain their dignity, identity and individuality.

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