Getting financial assistance
With fixed incomes, many older adults struggle to keep up with expenses. Fortunately, there are resources available to assist them, from housing and transportation to daily food benefits. This article offers information on some of the programs available to help older adults pay for everyday expenses.
NCOA “Benefits CheckUp” website
With fixed incomes, many older adults struggle to keep up with expenses. The National Council on Aging (NCOA) offers a Benefits CheckUp website. There, older adults and their caregivers can browse through a range of benefits offered by the federal government, including assistance programs for housing, transportation, pet care, and more. It’s a great first step to check the website and take advantage of as many benefits as possible.
Medicare and Medicaid are the two best-known government programs to help with medical expenses for older adults and others on low incomes. Medicare and Medicaid can also help pay some costs for hospital stays, doctors visits, hospice care, and vaccinations. Medicare Part D coverage helps with prescription drug costs.
In addition to these federal benefits, some states also offer PACE: Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. These PACE programs help cover costs of long-term care, and are designed to help older adults age at home rather than in skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes). A team of healthcare professionals is assigned to each person who qualifies for services. To find out if a state provides PACE and whether a person qualifies, call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 or visit Medicare’s PACE page.1
Finally, State Healthcare Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP) in every state offer one-on-one counselors to help navigate the sometimes tricky world of Medicaid and Medicare coverage, billing, and out-of-pocket costs. They can be reached by calling 1-877-839-2675.
The Housing Choice Vouchers Program, also known as Section 8, helps low-income families and individuals pay rent. Participants can find and choose their own housing, which does not need to be in a designated low-income housing complex. Participants receive vouchers to help cover rent costs, so long as the property meets minimum standards of health and safety. There is often a waiting list for the voucher program, though, so those seeking immediate assistance may want to seek emergency help while they wait.2
The Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERA) offers funding from the government to help cover rent, late fees, moving costs, and utilities, including internet, for those who qualify. The program is administered locally, and may send payments to landlords or service providers, or directly to those in need. The U.S. Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a searchable index by state for those looking for information about assistance.3
As they age, many older people find it wise to get rid of their cars. This does alleviate the expenses of car payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance. However, older adults still need transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, shopping, and social events. Many county governments in the United States offer free or low-cost private transportation designed for older adults, including door-to-door rides. County agencies for the elderly can also help with connecting people to organizations like Volunteers for America that may offer personalized services including transportation.
The first step to making utilities more affordable is to make them more efficient. The Department of Energy funds programs that help homeowners and renters, regardless of what kind of home they live in, to lower energy bills by weatherizing their homes. The Weatherization Assistance Program is operated through state and local governments to make homes more energy-efficient.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps qualified individuals cover costs to heat and cool their homes. In addition to directly providing assistance with bills, the program also provides funds to make homes more energy efficient.
Finally, many states also offer emergency assistance to help people avoid service shut-offs, which can be dangerous for older people. The National Energy Assistance Referral project can be reached at 1-866-674-6327.
Food insecurity is a major concern for many older adults. Fortunately, there are many federal, state, and local programs designed to fill in the gaps for older adults living on fixed incomes.
- SNAP. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides credits for participants towards the purchase of healthy foods at grocery stores and markets.
- Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Designed to encourage older adults to purchase healthy produce and meat, honey, and herbs from fellow community members, the program offers coupons for older adults to use at local farmers’ markets.
- CSFP. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program distributes a monthly USDA food package directly to older adults.
- Senior citizen food banks and food pantries. Many local food banks and pantries offer services and special programs for senior citizens. Some may even deliver food bank boxes directly to their clients. Feeding America offers a searchable database to find local food banks.
- Meals on Wheels. This well-known nonprofit program delivers hot meals to older adults as well as offering a friendly encounter with a volunteer and a safety check. The program operates through local partners nationwide.
Assisted living facilities
Dealing with financial challenges
Getting out of debt
Skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes)
Stretching your money
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