Are you aware that the youngest baby boomers will have turned 55 by the end of 2019? This means that the number of seniors in the U.S. will increase considerably in the next 5-10 years. Many will be under-prepared for senior living.
Will there be help for low-income seniors who need it? If so, what kinds of help and how can it be found? What can current and future seniors and their loved ones do to ensure their future needs will be met?
In this article, we’ll look at various categories of senior assistance programs and services that are available, who qualifies for them, and how they can be reached.
Financial Advice for Low-Income Seniors
There are lots of ways seniors can get financial assistance. To locate many of these, seniors are encouraged to use the National Council on Aging’s Benefits Check-up. This site shows an array of benefits based on your needs and where you live.
GreenPath Financial Wellness is a non-profit financial counseling and debt management service that meets NCOA’s Standards of Excellence. It provides unbiased financial assistance to seniors investing in their futures.
And AARP has a regular section of their website dedicated to financial advice for seniors. It includes money tips as well as news of interest to seniors, such as new trends in retirement living.
But if you need more personalized or specialized assistance, ask friends or relatives, or seek recommendations from your bank, accountant, or another trusted source.
Federal and State Help for Low-Income Seniors
AARP provides a list of public benefits for those over 50, with federal and state benefit listings, along with some programs (especially senior job programs) managed by the organization itself.
One form of financial aid for seniors is assistance from the FDA’s SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance) program. SNAP will pay for the following:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat, poultry, and fish
- Dairy products
- Breads and cereals
- Other foods such as snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages
- Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat
Health Care Assistance
Seniors age 65 and over, as well as those with End-Stage Renal Disease, are eligible for Medicare. Those under 65 should be eligible to seek health care coverage through their state’s exchanges, per the Affordable Care Act.
There are many housing options for seniors, with a wide range of price points and necessary income levels. Not all of them provide help for low-income seniors, though. That will require some advanced planning and research.
Aging in Place
This senior housing option refers to remaining at home and is by far the least expensive and is becoming more popular with the increase in assistive technologies. It is also what many seniors prefer.
However, with longevity increasing due to improvements in medical care, some seniors will outlive their ability to live independently and will need to move to some sort of senior living community.
Senior Living Communities
These facilities range in cost from moderately-priced (sometimes with public assistance available) to very expensive. They are listed below but can be read about in more detail here.
- Active Adult Communities
- Independent Living Communities
- Assisted Living Residences
- Nursing Homes
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities
Of all these, nursing homes (also known as skilled nursing or extended care facilities) are the ones whose mission is to provide services as well as medical care and are staffed continually by health professionals.
This option is for people who need the type of care that can’t be provided at home or in another senior living facility. Medicare and/or Medicaid cover some nursing home services.
Low-Income Housing and Housing Subsidies
This category refers to state-subsidized housing of various kinds–ranging from vouchers for help paying for senior living communities to accommodations in public housing. This too could be a source of help for seniors on social security.
SeniorLiving.org provides extensive information on the various HUD-sponsored programs for seniors. Sapling.com also provides a very useful site on locating low-cost and/or subsidized senior living options.
Be cautioned that there can be long waiting lists for these types of housing. As always, plan ahead!
Companionship Assistance for Low-Income Seniors
Many seniors live alone and miss the companionship of loved ones or friends who may have passed away. And they may have health or mobility concerns that deter them from leaving home very often. They do have options, though.
Entertainment, Education, and Social Life
There are many enjoyable ways for seniors to spend their days–not the least of which is volunteer work or even a paid job if finances need some support.
Although some seniors might require various types of accommodations for work or leisure activities, these are widely available and recognized–and should not be used as an excuse to stay at home.
Most communities now have senior centers or other gathering places for seniors. These and/or their staff usually have information available on local services and activities for seniors. Much of what they offer is free or low-cost.
College for Seniors
For seniors seeking intellectual stimulation, many colleges allow seniors to take classes either tuition-free or for reduced tuition. Here is a fairly comprehensive list of what colleges across the country have to offer senior scholars.
Many seniors feel they are too old to travel–or can no longer afford it. Still, seniors have many options that are both physically and financially accessible. These range from regional group day tours to international cruises.
And there is the Road Scholar program (formerly Elderhostel) for seniors wanting inexpensive educational sightseeing. With all its offerings, their website would tempt just about anyone.
A simple web search will turn up many more senior travel possibilities.
Assistance with Pet Care
Many seniors have beloved pets who offer them wonderful companionship and actually help them feel healthier. However, financially struggling seniors might wonder how much longer they’ll be able to afford to care for their pets.
In larger communities, a surprising source of financial aid for seniors is veterinary offices that offer reduced rates to low-income pet owners of any age.
The Humane Society of the United States also provides a very comprehensive listing of national- and state-level organizations that provide various types of assistance to pet owners–from food to veterinary care.
Low-Income Seniors Moving Forward
Older adults face many challenges, and while many are physical or emotional, a lot are financial. Sadly, retired seniors–many of whom have worked hard all their lives–still struggle financially in their later years.
And the problem of help for low-income seniors can only grow worse with greater longevity and greater dispersion of those family members who might otherwise take on caretaker responsibilities.
The lesson to be learned here–for all of us–has to do with financial planning. We all should be planning for retirement from the day we start our first jobs until the day we announce our plan to stop working. Most of us don’t, though.
Be sure to keep reading our blog for advice about retirement and senior living, along with other important financial topics.