Did you know there are literally thousands of programs that provide help for seniors in America? Whether you are struggling with the cost of housing or home repairs, looking for ways to save on prescriptions or hearing aids, or seeking affordable legal guidance, you can probably find senior citizens assistance programs that are designed to address needs like yours. In fact, the range of available services is so vast that the biggest challenge might be identifying the options that work best for your particular situation.
A good starting point in any search for senior assistance options is to check with your local Area Agency on Aging or use the online Eldercare Locator provided by the U.S. Administration on Aging. Either method can direct you to a host of services for older adults in your area. The directory of resources at the end of this article includes many more sites that can help you find the benefits and programs that are most applicable to you.
The following sections provide information on the many different resources that are available to help older adults meet their needs and improve their quality of life. Check out specific information about 11 different topics, or use the directory of resources to track down additional assistance.
According to the National Council on Aging, more than 25 million Americans over the age of 60 live below the federal poverty line. There are also millions of other seniors with low or moderate incomes who are technically above the poverty line but still struggle to pay their bills each month. Fortunately, there are programs that can help older adults who are facing income or tax challenges.
Social Security is a federal government insurance program that offers a source of income to those who qualify. In addition to retirement income, the program also offers death and survivorship benefits as well as help for seniors with disabilities.
Social Security is funded by Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes that come off of most workers' paychecks. While you work, you pay a percentage of your income to support the program. When you retire, the maximum amount of benefit you receive is calculated based on the average of the 35 years in which you earned the most income.
For each year you work, you earn credits toward your eligibility for benefits. You get one credit for every $1,300 you earn, to a maximum of four credits per year. In most cases, you need 40 credits to be eligible for benefits, which means you need to have worked for at least 10 years. However, spouses can receive benefits even if they have not met that threshold.
You can begin receiving retirement benefits between ages 62 and 70. The longer you wait to apply for benefits, the more you will be entitled to receive. It's important to note that the amount you initially receive becomes the base for the amount you will continue to receive for the rest of your life.
The Supplemental Security Income is a government assistance program that provides help for low-income seniors in the form of monthly cash payouts to cover basic costs related to food, shelter, and clothing. SSI benefits provide help for blind seniors, disabled seniors, and those over 65 who have limited income and resources. As of January 2018, the maximum monthly payout under SSI will be $750 for an individual and $1,125 for a couple.
The SSI program is run by the Social Security Administration, and when you apply for SSI you are also applying for Social Security benefits. However, SSI is actually a separate program and is not funded by Social Security taxes. That means, unlike Social Security benefits, SSI benefits are not based on your work history.
Additional financial help for seniors with low income is available in many areas. Most states (except for North Dakota, Arizona, Mississippi, and West Virginia) provide supplemental payments to people receiving SSI benefits. Each state has its own rules about who is eligible and how much they are entitled to receive. Supplement amounts often depend on a person's marital status and whether he or she is living independently, receiving home care, or residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
In some states, the supplemental program is run by the federal Social Security Administration, so an application for SSI benefits is also an application for the state supplement. Other states have their own agencies that run the supplemental program, which means you'll have to apply directly with that agency in order to receive the additional benefit.