As we age and enter into our elderly years, it can become significantly harder to take care of all the bills, get health checkups regularly, consume enough nutritious foods, and do other day to day activities. It can be debilitating, physically and emotionally, to feel there is no help or relief from it all. Thankfully, there are dozens of government aid programs available specifically for seniors. After a lifetime of working and paying taxes, seniors should be provided some social safety nets by the government. In this guide, we will go over all the different categories and specific programs within each one, and how they can be of use to your needs.
Expert Insight on Government Aid Programs for the Elderly
Before we delve into any specifics, let’s take a look at some insight that experts in the industry have to say about government aid programs for seniors:
How Government Aid Can Help You
There are four main categories that we’ll explore in how government aid programs can assist you. They are Housing, Medical, Nutrition, and Employment.
Mortgages, property taxes, utilities, and all the other expenses of housing may be manageable with a full time job, but as seniors it can easily add up to too much and become overwhelming. The U.S. Department of of Housing and Urban Development can help with affordable housing for seniors through public housing, housing vouchers, and multifamily subsidized housing. There is also relief for utility bills, weatherization assistance for homes in extreme climates, home repair help, and property tax programs.
Medical and Health
Medicare is the biggest and most well-known government aid program in regards to healthcare for seniors. Medicaid is the next biggest program, that provides coverage for hospital visits and nursing home care. There are a few more that we’ll go into more detail below, but know that signing up for all the health care programs for seniors will go a long long way in making your senior years much easier and enjoyable. No one should ignore health issues or concerns due to fear of it being too costly.
Food and Nutrition
Government programs that assist seniors with food and nutrition vary widely from state to state, but every state has at least a few options. Most seniors overlook these options, but just a hundred bucks in aid for food purchasing each month can have a much larger impact than you think. There are also programs that will bring meals to isolated or disabled seniors, and ensure that nutritious, fresh foods are getting into the homes of the elderly. Nutrition can be a big contributing factor in improving quality of life in old age, it most definitely should not be overlooked.
Employment and Income
There are several programs that help the elderly with learning new skills and getting matched with jobs that fit their lifestyle. These can help a senior to not feel so isolated, to be a part of the community, and continue earning an income. There are also programs that can help supplement your earned income, especially if you have limited resources. Programs can vary greatly from state to state, but below we’ll give you the resources you need to know exactly the kind of aid you can receive in your state.
Where Can I Find Government Aid Programs for Seniors?
It can be difficult to find what aid programs are available for seniors, aside from what we’ll list out in this guide. Contacting your local senator can be of great help though, as every senator has staff available who can advise you on smaller programs that may be specific to your specific community. Then there are your congressional representatives who also have staff specialists on elder affairs.
Further, there is a federally mandated agency located in every county of every state, called the Area Agency on Aging. Here you will find professionals who are in the know of every elder program in the immediate area. They can also help with applications to join the programs. The Administration on Aging handles national programs and services for seniors and go a step further in that they can help with legal assistance, long term care, counseling on health insurance, and even offer protection from elder abuse.
Renewals and Verifications
Nearly all of the government aid programs will have applications you’ll need to fill out. These applications will confirm your age, as the programs have different ages for eligibility, ranging from a minimum of 55 years of age up to a minimum of 65 years of age. Several programs are income dependent, so for those you’ll want to be ready to verify your monthly income in order to get discounts off on utilities or receive supplemental income. Some programs will need income verification just during the application, while others will randomly ask for verification once every year or two. You may never be asked to verify your income, but you should always know how to obtain your tax returns in order to prove your income for continued participation in the government aid programs. Lastly, if you’re applying for veteran benefits as a senior, then be ready to prove you have served in the military.
List of Aid Programs
Alright, we are to the point of listing out some of the most widespread government aid programs for seniors. We can’t list everything, as there are dozens of programs that are state specific, or even city specific. For a complete listing of government aid programs for seniors in your immediate area, you’ll want to contact your representative or the Area Agency on Aging as listed above.
If you are having trouble obtaining homeowner’s insurance, then FAIR Plan may be for you. Private insurance companies may not want to insure a ‘high risk’ home, where ‘high risk’ means your home is in an area that is prone to natural disasters or crime, or that your home has old plumbing and electrical work. The plans can be higher and not cover as much as private insurance companies, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your home and its contents are still somewhat covered. This is an especially useful program if you are in the midst of saving up for major home repairs that’d make your home less risky for private insurance companies to take on once the repairs are complete.
This program will help you get a grant or very low interest rate loan to repair, improve, or remove safety and/or health hazards from your home. Grants can be up to $7,500 and you must be at least 62 years of age and meet the low income requirements. If you receive a grant, then you will not have to pay it back. Their low interest loans are up to $20,000 and can be paid back over the course of 20 years. It is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This program can be of great help to seniors with severe vision and hearing loss. It will help you to get assistive technology equipment at no cost. A specialist associated with the program will come to your home and help you install devices such as wide screen computer monitors, speech enabled software, and telephones that are designed for the visually impaired. Must provide proof of limited income to be eligible for this program.
If you are at least 50 years old with limited income or a disability, then you can apply for this program. You’ll pay no more than 30% of your adjusted gross income on your housing rental. This program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which grants federal aid to local housing agencies. Please note that there are long waiting lists in some areas.
If you are at least 62 years old with limited income, then you can apply for this program. This program will pay a portion of the rent, up to 30% of your adjusted gross income, directly to the landlord. This program often has a long wait in most areas, so please be aware you may not be able to make use of this program right away.
You’ll be able to lower your energy bills and conserve energy by applying to this program. It provides free repairs to your home that’d increase the efficiency heating and cooling systems. Some of the services include insulation of windows, doors, walls, ducts, water heaters, and floors. Your furnace or other heating systems in your home may be eligible for modifications to increase their efficiency. There are limited funds for this program, so apply early to have a greater chance of receiving aid through this program.
You’ll receive a cash grant to help meet your home heating and cooling costs from this program. The grants can either be paid directly to you to be used for attic insulation, floors, ducts, and to repair or replace inefficient air conditioning and/or heating units in your home. The grants may also be paid directly to your utility company so you don’t have high recurring bills to worry about. You’ll need to provide verification of your low income status to qualify, if funds are available.
Medical and Health
Medicaid is an affordable health care plan for the elderly with limited income and resources. It is paid for by federal and state governments. It’ll pay for visits to healthcare providers, inpatient and outpatient hospital services, x-rays, medical transportation, prescription drug coverage, and home health services. The benefits and costs vary significantly from state to state, and some states have their own version of Medicaid.
If you have limited resources and income, then you can take part in this program that will provide you with health care and support services in a nursing facility. It can also help with medical equipment and supplies, personal need items like toiletries and clothing, and social services.
Medicare is a health insurance program provided by the federal government. There are three parts to it - Part A for hospital insurance, Part B for medical insurance, and Part D for prescription drug coverage. Part A is free if you are over 65 years old and you or your spouse have paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years while working. Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient services. Part B will generally cost $134 per month. Part D will cover some of the costs of your prescription drugs.
If you are collecting social security benefits, then this program will pay for your Medicare Part B premium directly out of your social security benefit amount. The premium is $109 if you enrolled into Medicare before 2017, and $134 in 2017 or later. You’ll also be enrolled in the Extra Help program that helps seniors pay for their medicines.
If you are a veteran then you can join this system where you’ll receive benefits such as a hospital stays, home health services, hearing aids, dental benefits, mental health programs and more. You would not have to enroll into Part D of Medicare because VA benefits provide pharmacy services. You’ll need to provide proof of your military service of course, as well as age for some parts of the VA health care system that has benefits for seniors.
Food and Nutrition
SNAP provides monthly stipends to eligible seniors to spend on fresh, nutritious foods. The amount allotted each month depends on income level and how many are in the household. This program can be called differently in each state, for example CalFresh is the equivalent of SNAP in California.
TEFAP is a program administered by the Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service. If you are elderly with low income, then you may be able to benefit from this program. USDA distributes nutritious foods to each state, to be distributed to food banks and soup kitchens which in turn distribute the foods to eligible seniors.
This program provides seniors with a coupon booklet to be used on fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other organic foods. It can be used at local farmers’ markets and outdoor stands. It cannot be used on dried fruits and veggies, dried or potted herbs, and other food items that do not perish quickly or have their nutritional value diminished. The coupon booklets are available on a first come, first served basis. These coupon booklets are not accepted at every farmers’ market, so be sure to check which markets participate in this program.
The Brown Bag Program will help get fresh fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods to you. The season and farm conditions will affect the amount of food given out, but the food is free with a voluntary donation. Check with your local representatives to find out the availability in your area.
The Feeding America network consists of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs. They serve seniors in almost every community throughout all 50 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico. There is no need to make a donation of your time or money to receive food from one of their locations. Your privacy is kept intact as well. This is a fantastic way to get quality foods while maintaining a tight budget each month.
Employment and Income
There are 2,500 American Job Centers around the country that provide seniors with access to employment services. Each center can vary in the services that they offer, but most include employment skills assessment, training services for seniors, follow-up services for at least 12 months, and job search assistance and access to job banks. You’ll even be able to learn computer skills here to increase your skill-set and land a job faster.
If you are looking to help others in your community then this program will match you with local community service projects. By completing full-time community service projects you’ll be able to get help paying for continued education pursuits. Some of the projects you’ll be able to volunteer at are tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth programs, illiteracy programs, cleaning parks and streams, managing after-school programs, build affordable housing, and many more.
If you have worked for the federal government then you may be eligible to receive retirement benefits. The current system is called the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which replaced the older system in 1987. Through FERS you’ll receive a retirement plan that has three different sources - a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). TSP is an account that has 1% of each pay period automatically deposited into it during your working years.
This is a fantastic program provided by the Department of Labor to help seniors obtain long-term employment. The SCSEP provides training assignments where you will learn new skills like computer programming, office administration, and more. You’ll also get on-the-job training through community service work with public and nonprofit organizations. You could be placed at senior centers, schools, hospitals, day care centers, or governmental agencies. You’ll work around 20 hours a week while being paid as you develop your new skills. You can also get employment assistance here, where you’ll get help creating a job placement and training plan, as well as attend lectures and seminars.
You’ll receive a cash benefit to help with your day to day expenses and bills, if you’ve worked and paid into the social security system previously. Your earnings record will affect the amount of your benefit. If you are a spouse or widower of someone who was eligible for this benefit, then you’ll be able to collect on their retirement benefits. A spouse, divorced spouse from a marriage that lasted at least 10 years and at least 62 years old will be eligible to collect on the benefit amount. A widower who is at least 60 years old, or 50 years old and disabled, will be able to collect on the benefit amount.
This website is one of the top resources for seniors over 50 years old to find work. It finds companies that are best suited for older workers, and then matches them with you depending on your lifestyle and needs. You’ll be able to search for jobs, post your resume, and find career advice. If you are looking for a full time job to pay the bills, or just part time work to get out of the house and meet new people, then this is one of your best options.
This is a federal program that will provide you with cash benefits monthly, as long as you meet the program guidelines. You must be over 65 years old with limited income and resources to be eligible. Your living arrangements and income will determine how much you will receive, so that you can pay for basic needs like food and clothing.
This is an example of further income supplement programs for seniors that may be provided by your state, knowing as the State Supplemental Program. In California, you’ll receive an additional cash benefit beyond SSI, depending on your sources of income and living arrangements. The maximum amount is $895.72 for an individual and $1,510.14 for a couple. Check through our additional resources below to find out if your state offers additional programs to supplement your income.
Other Aid Programs
There are several more programs that are mostly one of a kind, and don’t fit in other categories. We’ll go over a few of the most useful ones here.
You must be at least 62 years old to be eligible for this lifetime pass to all of the National Parks in the United States. The price rose from $10 to $80 in 2017, but it is still a lifetime pass that will never have to be renewed. If you are planning on doing road trips during your senior years, then this pass is a definite must, as you’ll be able to stop by any National Park for free.
This service will guide you through the pros and cons of a reverse mortgage. Experts will be able to review your living situation and plans to see if a reverse mortgage will be of benefit. You must be at least 62 years old and the owner or co-owner of the home. A reverse mortgage, in the simplest of terms, is a financial agreement where a part of the equity in your home becomes monthly payments to you. It is a complicated financial agreement, so this counseling service is a great way to make sense of it.
You’ll be able to take educational trips in the United States and even internationally through this program. You’ll be able to participate in cultural tours and go on study cruises. You’ll need to be at least 40 years old to be eligible for this program. Program fees include meals and lodging but you are responsible for travel costs to and from the locations. You’ll want to check on the activity level of the program before enrolling to be sure that you can handle the amount of walking needed.
If you have a pension or 401(k) plan, then this program will be able to help you how to utilize them in the best way possible. Government Pension Agencies are responsible for managing your specific pension plan. You’ll be able to speak with them directly on in regards to any requirements of your pension plan, and what your rights are. Counseling Projects can help you discover benefits from previous employers that you are not in contact with any longer. They’ll help you do benefit calculations and benefit determinations from all your previous employers.
You’ll receive an income tax credit if you are at least 65 years old. This will lower the amount of federal income tax that you would have to pay, and show up on your federal tax return when you file with the Internal Revenue Service.
If you are being abused - physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually - then this program will investigate and provide assistance. They also investigate cases of neglect and financial exploitation by spouses, caregivers, or other family members and friends. This program will also be able to assist you if you are disabled and need help getting food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. Some of the other services provided are complete home visitations, counseling and financial management, finding alternative living arrangements, and applying for guardianship for persons who have no one to assist them.
Senior years can be the best years of our lives, but they can also be very frustrating and debilitating. Thankfully, there are dozens of government aid programs designed for seniors, to make life much more manageable and stress-free. No one should be struggling to afford and get food, clothing, or shelter, especially in their senior years. The programs above will go along way in making sure your basic needs are met, so you can spend time with family and friends, learning new skills, or seeing new sights, no matter your physical disabilities or financial state of affairs.
While our list above covers some of the most common government aid programs for seniors, there are still many more on the state and county levels. There’s also much more information for some of the government aid programs above.