As seniors reach their golden years, it should be a time of prosperity, rest, and reflection on the years of hard work they put in. While some folks are able to enjoy abundance in their later years, the reality is that many older Americans don’t have all the means necessary to thrive later in life. If you fall into this category, you may find yourself wondering what benefits are available for senior citizens like me?
Fortunately, there are safeguards in place to make sure older folks have access to the resources they need when it’s time for them to exit the workforce. From financial and healthcare assistance to food programs and senior discounts, learn what resources are available to older Americans who may need assistance during their retirement years.
What Benefits Are Available for Senior Citizens?
As a senior, it’s important to understand what benefits are available to you and, more importantly, how to access them! Whether you are struggling to make ends meet, need assistance with retirement, or looking for ways to improve your overall well-being, discover what benefits you could qualify for.
One of the most important resources you need access to in retirement is healthcare. In order to maintain your health and well-being into your later years, you can tap into healthcare benefits available to seniors in the U.S., including Medicaid, Medicare, prescription assistance programs, and Veterans benefits. Get an overview of how each program works and who may qualify below!
Medicare is a federally funded healthcare program available to seniors aged 65 and above, as well as to those with certain disabilities or end-stage renal disease. It funds almost a quarter of all healthcare spending in the United States!
It’s divided into four parts and seniors can choose to enroll in Original Medicare (Parts A and B) or opt for a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) that covers both Parts A and B. Here’s what’s included in each part of Medicare:
- Part A covers hospitalization costs.
- Part B covers outpatient medical services.
- Part C provides additional coverage options through private insurance companies.
- Part D covers prescription drugs.
While any aspects of Medicare are free to folks 65 years and older, there are parts of the program that require payment. If you’re approaching 65, meet with a Medicare specialist to understand what coverage you’ll need (and how much it may cost).
Similar to Medicare, Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage. The difference is that Medicaid helps low-income individuals (including seniors who meet specific income requirements) whereas Medicare provides coverage to any senior 65 years or older. Medicaid provides benefits for many in this country and even pays for half of all long-term care expenses in the United States.
Medicaid covers a broad range of medical services, including:
- Inpatient and outpatient hospital care
- Doctor visits and other medical services
- Laboratory and X-ray services
- Home health care
- Nursing home and long-term care services
- Prescription drugs
- Rehabilitation services
- Transportation to medical appointments
Some states also cover dental care, vision care, hearing aids, medical equipment, and even in-home care. Eligibility requirements vary by state, but seniors may be eligible for Medicaid if they have limited income and assets. You can work with a Medicaid specialist to find out if you qualify and what benefits would serve you best in your state.
Prescription Assistance Programs
Prescription Assistance Programs are designed to help seniors who struggle to afford the high cost of prescription drugs. Many pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs to help seniors pay for their medications. These programs may provide discounts, free or low-cost medications, or co-pay assistance.
Seniors can contact individual pharmaceutical companies to inquire about available programs or work with their healthcare provider to identify resources.
Veterans Healthcare Benefits
Veterans Benefits are available to seniors who have served in the U.S. military. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides a range of healthcare benefits to eligible retired veterans through their health insurance program, TRICARE. TRICARE provides comprehensive coverage for military members, their dependents, retirees, and some survivors and former spouses, including:
- Outpatient visits
- Preventive services
- Pharmacy benefits
- Dental benefits
If you’re a veteran and in need of healthcare, speak with a specialist at the VA to get the assistance you need!
In addition to healthcare benefits, there’s a range of financial assistance programs designed to help seniors in need. With inflation rising, many older Americans are turning to these programs for supplemental income to help alleviate the cost of living. Take a look at what financial assistance programs may serve you best!
One of the most well-known and utilized financial assistance programs for older Americans is Social Security. It’s a federal program that’s designed to provide a reliable source of income to seniors (and other eligible individuals) and supplement retirement savings, pensions, and/or other income streams.
Seniors may begin collecting Social Security when they reach 62 years. However, if you’re able to wait longer to collect, you can receive a higher monthly benefit. In 2023, people who begin collecting Social Security at 62 will receive $2,572. Folks who wait until age 70 will receive a monthly benefit of $4,555.
While many seniors rely on Social Security as their main source of income in retirement, the program was not designed for seniors to live off of it. In fact, about a quarter of America’s seniors use Social Security for at least 90% of their income in retirement and 50% of seniors use Social Security as half of their retirement income. Meet with your financial advisor to strategize when you should begin collecting Social Security and what other streams of income can help you cover the cost of living during retirement.
Federal, State, and Veteran Pensions
In addition to Social Security, some seniors may be eligible to collect federal, state, and/or veteran pensions. Federal pensions are offered to federal government employees, state pensions are offered to state government employees, and veteran pensions are offered to veterans and their surviving spouses.
To qualify for a federal pension, a person must have worked for the federal government for a certain period of time and have reached a certain age. State pension eligibility requirements vary by state, but typically require a certain number of years of service and/or age. To qualify for a veteran pension, a person must have served in the military during a time of war or other designated period and meet certain income and asset requirements. These pensions provide retirees with a guaranteed source of income in retirement, helping to supplement other sources of income and providing financial stability in later years.
Another major area of need for seniors is food assistance. If you’re experiencing difficulty affording your grocery bill or can no longer make meals on your own, there are programs designed to meet your needs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), emergency food assistance programs, farmer’s market programs, and Meals on Wheels. See what food assistance programs may be available near you!
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — formerly known as food stamps — is a federal program that provides financial assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase food. Seniors can qualify for SNAP if they meet certain income and asset requirements, which vary by state and household size.
SNAP benefits are loaded onto an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card to purchase eligible food items at participating retailers. Older folks can benefit from SNAP by using their benefits to purchase nutritious foods that may be otherwise unaffordable.
To qualify for SNAP, seniors must be either 60 years of age or older or have a disability. To apply for SNAP, seniors can contact their state’s SNAP office or apply online through the USDA’s website. SNAP can be a critical source of support for elderly folks who are struggling with food insecurity, providing them with access to healthy, affordable food.
Emergency Food Assistance Programs
Emergency food assistance programs, such as food banks and pantries, provide free food to individuals in need, including seniors. These programs typically rely on donations from individuals, organizations, and businesses to supply their inventory of food. Older people who are struggling with food insecurity can benefit from emergency food assistance programs by receiving free food to help supplement their grocery budget.
Eligibility requirements vary by program and location, but many programs have income and/or residency requirements. Seniors can typically visit a food pantry or food bank to receive a pre-packaged box of food or to select their own items from the available inventory. In addition to providing free food, many emergency food assistance programs also offer additional services to help seniors, such as nutritional counseling or assistance with applying for other benefits.
Farmers Market Programs
Farmers market programs are a type of food assistance program that allows seniors to use vouchers or coupons to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmer’s markets. Not only do these programs help seniors access fresh, locally grown produce that may be more expensive or difficult to find in traditional grocery stores, they also help support local farmers and promote sustainable agriculture.
One example of a farmers market program for seniors is the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which provides eligible seniors with coupons that can be used to purchase fresh produce at participating farmer’s markets, roadside stands, and community-supported agriculture programs.
Eligibility requirements vary by program and location, but seniors must typically be 60 years of age or older and meet income requirements.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels is a national program that delivers hot, nutritious meals to seniors who are unable to leave their homes due to mobility or health issues. Seniors who are eligible for Meals on Wheels typically receive one or two meals per day, depending on their needs, and the meals are delivered directly to their homes. In addition to providing nutritious meals, Meals on Wheels can also serve as a wellness check for seniors who may be at risk of isolation or neglect.
To qualify for Meals on Wheels, seniors must typically be 60 years of age or older, have difficulty preparing their own meals, and have no other available assistance. Seniors can apply for Meals on Wheels through their local chapter or by contacting the national Meals on Wheels organization. Meals on Wheels can be a critical source of support for seniors who are homebound, providing them with nutritious meals and social interaction to help improve their overall well-being.
As seniors age, they may find it increasingly difficult to manage the costs of housing and utilities. Fortunately, there are several programs available to help seniors with housing assistance, utility discounts, and even weatherization tasks. Take a look at what programs you may need during retirement and find out if you qualify!
Housing vouchers are a form of rental assistance that helps people afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing. Seniors can apply for housing vouchers through their local housing authority and, if they are eligible, they will receive a voucher that can be used to pay for a portion of their monthly rent. Seniors who receive housing vouchers can benefit from affordable housing that meets their needs and allows them to age in place.
Local Utility Discounts
Believe it or not, many states and localities offer utility discounts to seniors who meet certain income requirements. These discounts can help seniors save money on their utility bills, including electricity, gas, and water. Seniors can contact their local utility company or their state’s Department of Aging to find out if they are eligible for a utility discount.
For seniors who live in areas with extreme weather conditions, there are weatherization assistance programs designed to help seniors make their homes more energy-efficient, which can help lower their heating and cooling costs. These programs may provide services such as insulation, weather stripping, and window replacements. Seniors can apply for weatherization assistance through their state’s Department of Energy or a local weatherization agency.
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) provides financial assistance to low-income households to help pay for heating and cooling costs. Seniors who are eligible for HEAP can receive a one-time payment or a monthly credit that can be applied to their utility bill. Seniors can apply for HEAP through their state’s Department of Energy or a local community action agency.
Other Benefits and Assistance
In addition to federal benefits, there are a number of other ways seniors can receive discounts or free assistance with everyday living essentials. Here are public and private programs you may want to consider using to reduce your monthly living expenses.
- Phone Discounts: Many phone companies offer special plans and discounts for seniors. These plans can help seniors stay connected with their loved ones and caregivers, while also saving money on their monthly phone bills. Some plans even include free or discounted smartphones and data plans.
- Legal Aid: Seniors may face legal issues related to estate planning, healthcare, and other important matters. Legal aid services can provide free or low-cost legal advice and representation to seniors who cannot afford private attorneys. These services can help seniors protect their rights and interests, as well as ensure that their wishes are carried out.
- Transportation Assistance: Getting around can be a challenge for many seniors, especially those with mobility issues. Transportation assistance programs can provide free or low-cost rides to medical appointments, grocery stores, and other essential destinations. These programs can help seniors maintain their independence and access the services they need to stay healthy and active.
- Tax Relief: Seniors may be eligible for a range of tax relief programs, including property tax exemptions, income tax credits, and other benefits. These programs can help seniors reduce their tax burden and keep more money in their pockets. They can also provide financial assistance to seniors who may be struggling to make ends meet.
A Quick Guide: Government Benefits for Seniors Over 60
In review, there are a number of public and private benefits available to folks during retirement, however, it’s essential to highlight the government benefits for seniors over the age of 60. Here’s a shortlist for you to keep on hand:
- Social Security: Seniors who have paid into the Social Security system for at least 10 years are eligible for retirement benefits at age 62. These benefits can provide a steady source of income throughout retirement.
- Medicaid: Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income seniors. It can help cover the costs of nursing home care, home healthcare, and other medical services.
- Veterans Benefits: Seniors who served in the military may be eligible for a range of benefits, including healthcare, disability compensation, and pension payments.
- Food Assistance: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to seniors with low income to help cover the cost of food.
- Property Tax Relief: Some states offer property tax relief programs for seniors who own their homes. These programs can help reduce the burden of property taxes and keep seniors in their homes.
Unlocking More Government Benefits for Seniors Over 65
In addition to the benefits seniors are eligible for when they turn 60 years old, the other government benefit seniors qualify for once they turn 65 is Medicare. This federal health insurance program covers a range of medical services, including hospital stays, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. Make sure to work with your financial advisor to create a strategy before applying for Medicare once you turn 65 years old. There may be certain fees required for coverage you need.
Making the Most of Senior Benefits
When it comes to stretching your dollar in retirement, every little bit counts. By taking advantage of free or highly reduced services, seniors like you can save money on daily expenses, healthcare costs, and other essential needs.
Plus, using these kinds of programs can stretch your budget and make your later years in life a little more comfortable — and enjoyable. Since many of these programs are designed specifically for seniors, they can help you access resources you wouldn’t normally have access to. Overall, using senior discount programs and government benefit programs can help older Americans like you gain financial stability in your golden years.
In addition to private and public senior citizen benefits, there are a number of financial strategies designed for older Americans to tap into when they reach a certain age. From reverse mortgages to annuities, there are ways of strategically using the assets you own in your financial favor, adding to your fixed income every month.
One little-known financial innovation is a life settlement. Most seniors don’t know they can sell their life insurance policy for cash and end up surrendering or lapsing their life insurance policy altogether. Instead of letting go of your life insurance policy, see if you qualify for a life settlement. You could get four times the cash surrender value and use your proceeds for retirement. Use the Retirement Genuis Life Settlement Calculator today to see how much your policy may be worth!
Make growing older the time of your life by taking advantage of the benefits available to you. Your golden years deserve to be just that: golden!