A Guide to Government Aid for Aging Seniors

Caring for an aging parent can not only become mentally exhausting but financially challenging as well. Many families are ill-prepared for a senior loved one's evolving needs, especially when budgets are already tight. However, there are many valuable programs available through state, local and federal government avenues. Caregiving takes a village, and caregivers can build stronger ones by weaving these programs into their existing family and social support networks.

Here, we’ll outline the five main areas these aid programs cover, with detailed information about each one.

  1. 1. Housing Programs

    For older adults, maintaining a lifestyle they've long been accustomed to can be a challenge. What happens when they can no longer afford the home they lived in for years, or even navigate it safely? Such situations can be especially challenging, and frightening, for aging seniors running out of options. However, the following aid programs were established to meet this wide range of housing needs for older loved ones:

    My Mom Can’t Afford Homeowners Insurance for Her Aging Home

    FAIR Plan: Many of our senior relatives live in old houses, potentially affecting the cost of homeowner's insurance. If your loved one can't afford the insurance premiums on account of old wiring or other older home hazards, consider your state’s FAIR Plan options.

    My Dad Can’t Pay His Heating & Cooling Bills

    LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program): When the temperatures drop or rise significantly, those heating and cooling bills respond accordingly. If your loved one's home is paid off, but a fixed income limits his ability to pay these higher bills, check out LIHEAP. 

    My Aging Parent’s Vision Loss is a Home-Safety Concern

    iCanConnect: Does Dad have vision or hearing losses that affect his ability to navigate his home environment? He may be eligible for this program with the ability to implement assistive technology to foster independence and safety at home.

    My Aging Parents Need Help Making Their Home Energy Efficient

    Weatherization Assistance Program: Make changes to Mom's home that will make it more energy-efficient and hopefully, more cost-effective when utility bills come due. That's what this program offers to eligible individuals. 

    My Dad Is Struggling to Pay Rent

    HUD Public Housing: Does your senior loved one have limited income or a disability and is at least 50 years old? She’s eligible for this program and will pay no more than 30 percent of her adjusted gross income on a housing rental. Long waiting lists are typical for this program.

    Housing Choice Vouchers Program: Have limited income but are at least 62 years old? You’re eligible for this program that will pay a portion of your rent (up to 30 percent of your adjusted gross income), directly to the landlord. If your senior loved one qualifies and you’re interested, sign up quickly: there’s a long wait list for this program in most areas.

    Mom’s House Is Old and Falling Apart

    USDA Housing Repair Program: Get a low-interest rate loan or grant to make pivotal repairs to your older loved one’s home and make it safer. Seniors ages 62 and up who meet the low-income requirements are eligible. 

  2. 2. Medical & Health Programs

    These programs are among the most familiar, but it still helps to cover them in case there are benefits available you didn’t know existed. Get the details on what services and support these popular resources cover, and who’s eligible.

    My Aging Parents Need Help Paying for Medical Insurance and Healthcare

    Medicare: Through this program, the federal government provides three care components to seniors 65 and up: hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug coverage.

    Medicaid: Seniors with limited income and resources may qualify for this federal/state-funded program to access healthcare services like x-rays, medical transportation, home health care and more.

    Medicare Savings: Is Dad collecting Social Security (SS) benefits? He may also be eligible for this program too, enabling pay for a Medicare Part B premium from your SS benefits.

    My Aging Parent Is a Veteran and Needs Health Care Services

    United States Department of Veterans Affairs: Of course veterans have access to benefits like hospital stays, home health services, mental health programs, dental care and more through this well-known service.

    My Aging Parents Need Help Paying for Medical Equipment and Supplies

    Nursing Home Medicaid (Spousal Impoverishment): From a nursing home stay to assistance with the costs of medical equipment or personal needs items (toiletries and clothing), this program is available to seniors with limited resources and income.

  3. 3. Food & Nutrition Programs

    Maybe Mom can pay the mortgage, but putting food on the table and keeping the fridge and cupboards stocked with healthy options has been a challenge since your Dad died. Nutrition is essential to good health. Explore these programs to ensure your older loved one has access to healthy foods:

    My Aging Parent Needs Access to Healthy Foods

    The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): Administered by the Department of Agriculture, this program is focused on low-income seniors who need access to nutritious foods.

    Brown Bag Program: Each state has its own version of this program, but by reaching out to your local food bank, you'll find out what fresh fruits, vegetables and more may be available to your aging parents.

    Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Each state may call this program something different, but if your senior loved one is eligible, he'd get access to a monthly stipend for fresh, nutritious foods based on income level and how many people live in the home.

    My Dad Is Struggling to Keep Food in His Pantry

    Feeding America Network of Food Banks: Across the country, this organization serves community seniors in need via 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs.

    My Mom Loves Organic Food But Is on a Fixed Income

    Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program: Does Mom live in an area where farmers’ markets are prevalent? Organic, locally grown foods can be expensive, but these coupon booklets available to seniors can mitigate the food bill.

  4. 4. Employment & Income Programs

    Is Dad still able to work, or does he wish to stay involved with the community through volunteering? Does Mom need supplemental income after your father’s passing left her on a fixed budget? If so, the following government programs are worth investigating:

    My Aging Parent Wants to Continue Working

    Workforce Investment Act (WIA): This important program offers 2,500 job centers that provide access to employment services for seniors.

    Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP): Is Mom looking for long-term employment? This unique program offers interested applicants new job-skills training and paid employment opportunities simultaneously.

    RetirementJobs: Does Dad want to work again but isn’t sure where to find employment? Peruse this national database tailored to workers over the age of 50.

    My Dad Wants to Volunteer

    Volunteer AmeriCorps: Staying active after retirement is an essential part of better health during later life years. Volunteering through AmeriCorps is a great way to accomplish that goal.

    My Mom Needs Supplemental Income Now That She’s Retired

    Supplemental Security Income (SSI): For some seniors, Social Security benefits do not go far enough to pay for basic life needs. If they meet eligibility requirements, they may qualify for additional support through SSI.

    State Supplemental Program: Each state has its own program for meeting cash-benefit needs beyond what SSI covers.

    My Aging Parent Was a Federal Employee

    Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS): If your Mom or Dad was an employee of the federal government during their working years, they might be eligible for certain retirement benefits available through FERS. 

  5. 5. Additional Programs

    From recreational opportunities to mortgage counseling and everything in between, these programs — while not fitting one of the traditional categories mentioned above — are nonetheless valuable to pursue.

    My Aging Parent Wants to Travel on a Budget

    America the Beautiful Senior Pass: Has Mom always wanted to see the Rockies in the spring? Take advantage of this lifetime pass to visit any National Park for free.

    Road Scholar: Learning is for a lifetime, and that’s why this program exists for adults who want to go on cultural tours and study cruises across the country.

    My Mom Needs Additional Financial Support

    Tax Credit for the Elderly and Disabled: If Mom is older than 65 he may be eligible for this income tax credit.

    NCOA Reverse Mortgage Counseling Service: Considering a reverse mortgage but unsure of whether it’s the right financial option for your senior loved one? Work with the National Council on Aging’s counseling service to navigate the pros and cons.

    PensionHelp America: Does Dad have a pension plan through his former employer? Leverage the benefits in the best possible way via support from PHA.

    My Dad Needs a Guardian

    Adult Protective Services (APS): Concerned about the abuse of an aging parent? The APS program in your state can step in to provide support, protection, and assistance in difficult situations of abuse, neglect or exploitation of a senior loved one.

Be sure to thoroughly review your options and explore all resources available for your parent. And if what your Mom or Dad really needs is help at home, you may be searching for information on how to pay for it. You can click here for more on that.

CTA: New to caring for a senior loved one? It may be hard for you to accept help, or even know what help you need. Our extensive Life Care Knowledge Center is free and available to you 24/7.

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