Top Assistance Programs Every Senior Should Know

Help is out there but you have to look for it, review the requirements and, if applicable, apply. Here we offer a helpful start!
Hand holds a check from the US treasury with an American flag in the background

One of the toughest things about aging is that income tends to decrease at the same time that inflation increases. With this fact comes the hard truth: many older Americans require help. Help may be needed for finances, medical bills, home payments, transportation, or general living expenses.

If you find yourself in need, there are many low-income programs for seniors available. The biggest hurdle is already behind you. You’re facing the fact that you may need financial help. This is not comfortable, yet it is the beginning of finding assistance.

What Programs are Available for Low-Income Seniors?

As we age, we often need a little extra help to maintain our independence. Fortunately, there are many organizations out there that are dedicated to assisting seniors in every facet of their life. For example, some groups can help with housing, transportation, and access to healthcare. There are also organizations that provide meals for seniors who are unable to cook for themselves. There are even programs for low-income seniors that offer discounts on prescription medications.

This Senior Assistance Club guide will help you find the right ones for your needs.

How to Find Assistance Programs

If you are looking for programs for low-income seniors, experts advise having a plan in place before getting started. This can be as simple as:

  • Make a list of areas in which you need help
  • Make a list of potential programs in your area
  • Make a schedule for contacting the programs
  • Create a work area such as a desk
  • Ask a friend or family member to help you find programs

By being organized, having a structure, and having support, you are more likely to keep up your spirits while you find the programs that can help you.

Getting Started

If you're seeking assistance, a great tool to start with is provided by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). Did you know there are over 2,500 benefit programs available nationwide? Find out what benefits may be available in your area with Benefits Checkup. It's fast, free, and from a trustworthy source.

Senior couple standing in front of a small house

Housing Assistance for Low-Income Seniors

Many senior homeowners are looking for help paying for repairs and renovations. There are government programs that may be able to help you with this through the various housing assistance programs for low-income seniors that are available out there.

One of the most used government programs for low-income seniors is the one where you can find help with home repairs and modifications.

Programs are also available to provide assistance with weatherization and to help with your home energy bill. One program that assists families with energy costs is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This may be useful for managing costs for your home.

If you’re not an owner, you may want to check out the options for getting affordable rental housing.

We’ve all run into hard times at different points in our lives. When money is tight, finding enough to cover the rent can be challenging. It helps to know where to turn. There are a variety of federal programs administered through state and local agencies to help seniors with housing needs.

Additionally, many communities have public housing for seniors. These are often in high demand, with a waiting list for available apartments. Check with your state Agency on Aging.

There are government and independent programs to help low-income seniors find affordable rental housing.

If you’re having trouble with rent, check out HUD for Housing Choice Vouchers Program. This program was previously known as Section 8 and provides subsidies to the elderly to help pay for rent. Information is available online so you can contact your state resources directly.

Finally, there may be helpful programs in finding assistance for immediate rent. Organizations devoted to keeping people off the streets and in their homes include Modest Needs, Homelessness Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing Program, Catholic Charities, and 211.

Elderly couple with table full of pills on the phone receiving instructions

Medical Assistance Programs

Getting the best coverage at the lowest cost often requires some shopping around. As needs change, be sure to get an online quote at for Medicare plans that fit your needs.

Another great way to save money is to look for help with saving money on medical equipment or supplies. To find out what is available in your state, check GoodHealthwill or Rehab Equipment Exchange.

Look for options for free, low-cost, and sliding scale clinics. Check out the comprehensive list of clinics on Needymeds. You’ll find services including medical, dental, mental health, and substance abuse clinics. This site is a great resource for finding medical assistance programs for equipment, supplies, medical transportation, and more.

Don't forget about your teeth. Dental care is available for seniors through programs for low-income seniors offered by Donated Dental Services. More than 15,000 dentists volunteer across the U.S.

While you’re checking out programs, be sure to visit these websites:

State Sponsored Programs: These programs may provide medical care or financial assistance for medical care, health insurance, prescription assistance, medical supplies and equipment, and more. Check out what is available in your area.

You should also check out the Medicare and Medicaid websites.

The Medicare Information website shares a lot of valuable information for those who are eligible for Medicare benefits. The site provides clear and concise explanations of the various programs available, as well as links to related websites. In addition, the site offers a variety of tools and resources to help Medicare beneficiaries make the most of their coverage. For example, the site includes a provider search tool, which can be used to find doctors and facilities that accept Medicare. The site also provides a wealth of information on Medicare prescription drug coverage, including lists of covered drugs and links to pharmacy discount programs.

If you go to the Medicaid site, you'll see that there's a lot of information available about the program and how it can help you. You'll also find links to state-specific Medicaid programs, as well as contact information for your state's Medicaid office. There are also income and asset eligibility requirements listed on the site, along with information about how to apply for coverage. Finally, you can also find general information about what Medicaid covers and what kinds of services are available through the program.

State Health Insurance Assistance Programs: (SHIP) is a federally-funded health advisory program that provides grants to provide health insurance counseling to Medicare recipients and their families.

Medicaid Planning and Assistance Options: A comprehensive guide to understanding costs, planning, and alternatives.

Senior latino man driving his car

Transportation Assistance

If you’re looking for help buying a car, you may be dealing with expenses such as registration, insurance, and upkeep—as well as the cost of the new or used car.

Some programs exist to provide transportation assistance to low-income seniors.

A network of organizations is committed to helping low-income individuals buy a car. Working Cars for Working Families has a searchable database to help you find a program in your area.

Online Car Donations provides cars that are gifted to them, people in numerous situations and circumstances.

Free Charity Cars has a website where you can post your situation and if you get enough votes, you are put on the list to get a donated car.

Looking for a concierge service to help you go door-to-door without hassle? GoGoGrandparent is a concierge service that helps you connect with on-demand services like Uber and Lyft. It’s a simple process where you can call a toll-free number to arrange a ride. You’ll be able to speak with a live operator, round the clock.

For your safety, rides are monitored, and all drivers are screened. Also, you can have your family members notified by text message about the ride. You don’t even have to worry about trunk space if you use a walker or foldable wheelchair. If you have recurring doctor visits, medication delivery, and appointments, you can schedule a ride with them. This service offers many benefits for seniors who want to maintain their independence while still getting door-to-door service.

Cars4Christmas (C4C) is a nationwide, non-profit organization that provides cars for people who are going through life hardships. C4C is primarily operating in the Midwest and helps provide cars for people who need a vehicle. C4C also operates a partner organization called Cars 4 Heroes, which focuses on providing vehicles for veterans in need.

Cars 4 Heroes provides cars for veterans who are struggling to afford a vehicle. They also helps to support families of veterans who have been injured or killed in action by providing them with a car. Cars 4 Heroes is a great way for veterans to get the transportation they need and deserve.

These programs for low-income seniors help people get cars, often to help people keep jobs, make appointments, and stay mobile. If you’re in need of help with buying a car, contacting these groups may provide answers.

Food Programs for Low-Income Seniors

Hunger is a reality for many low-income seniors in the United States. According to Feeding America, 5.2 million seniors were food insecure in 2020, which means they do not have reliable access to affordable, nutritious food. The good news is that there are federal programs in place to help these vulnerable low-income seniors. Here is where you can find food assistance for low-income seniors.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federally funded program that provides financial assistance to low-income individuals and families to purchase food. SNAP benefits can be used to buy food items such as bread, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase alcohol, tobacco products, pet food, household items, or medicines.

To be eligible for SNAP benefits, you must meet certain income and resource requirements. Income requirements vary by household size; for example, in 2020 a single person with no dependents could have an annual income of no more than $15,950. Resource requirements also vary by household size; for example, in 2020 a single person with no dependents could have resources of no more than $3,500.

To apply for SNAP benefits, contact your local SNAP office or visit The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a federal program administered by state agencies that provides low-income seniors with vouchers that can be used to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at participating farmers' markets. To find out if you are eligible for SFMNP benefits, or to find a participating farmers' market in your area, please visit the USDA website.

The Feeding America food bank network operates a Senior Grocery Program that provides free food to seniors in need. There are no eligibility requirements or income restrictions – anyone 60 years or older can receive free groceries from participating food banks. To find a program in your area, simply contact your local food bank. With the Senior Grocery Program, seniors can worry less about putting food on the table and focus on enjoying their retirement.

Lastly, we have the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. The Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) is a federal program administered by state agencies that provides low-income seniors with vouchers that can be used to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at participating farmers' markets. To find out if you are eligible for SFMNP benefits, or to find a participating farmers' market in your area, please visit the USDA website.

Jobs for Low-Income Seniors

As you age, it can become more difficult to find gainful employment. This is especially true if you are low-income or have a limited education. However, there are several job programs for low-income seniors that can help you get back on your feet and earn a steady income.

The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a federally-funded program that provides part-time, temporary employment opportunities to low-income seniors aged 55 and over. Participants in the program work an average of 20 hours per week at a local non-profit or public agency. In addition to earning a wage, participants also receive training and case management services to help them transition into permanent employment.

Programs like SCSEP are available in all 50 states, so there's likely one near you no matter where you live. To find out more about the program and how to apply, visit the Department of Labor's website.

The Foster Grandparent Program is a volunteer opportunity for low-income seniors who want to make a difference in their communities. Participants in the program provide mentorship and one-on-one assistance to children with special needs, including those with physical disabilities, chronic illnesses, or developmental delays.

Foster grandparents typically work 15-40 hours per week, depending on their availability and the needs of the children they're assisting. They receive a small stipend for their time as well as transportation reimbursement and other benefits. To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit the Corporation for National & Community Service's website.

The Federal Bonding Program is another option for low-income seniors who are interested in finding a job. This program provides fidelity bonding insurance coverage to employers who hire workers with criminal histories. The coverage protects the employer from losses that could occur as a result of employee dishonesty.

If you're looking for a volunteer opportunity with flexible hours, then the Senior Corps RSVP program may be right for you. RSVP stands for "Retired & Senior Volunteer Program." The RSVP program is designed for individuals aged 55 and over who want to use their skills and experience to make a difference in their communities. Volunteers can choose where they want to serve and how often they want to serve, making it easy to find an opportunity that fits both their interests and schedule.

Some examples of RSVP volunteer opportunities include tutoring children at a local school, helping seniors with grocery shopping or yard work, or teaching English-as-a-second-language classes.

Tax Programs for Low-Income Seniors

Tax time can be a stressful time for everyone, but it can be especially daunting for low-income seniors. There are several programs in place to help ease the burden, though. Here is an overview of some of the most popular tax programs for low-income seniors in the USA.

The Social Security Administration's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a needs-based program that provides financial assistance to eligible low-income seniors. To qualify for SSI benefits, seniors must be 65 years of age or older, blind, or disabled. You can learn more about the SSI program and how to apply for benefits by visiting the Social Security Administration's website.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal credit for low- to moderate-income working taxpayers. To qualify, seniors must have earned income from employment or self-employment. The credit amount is based on the senior’s income and family size. For example, a senior with two children who earned $17,000 in 2020 would receive a credit of $538.

The Senior Citizens Property Tax Deferral program is available in many states and allows eligible seniors to defer property taxes on their primary residence. To qualify, seniors must be at least 60 years old and meet certain income requirements. In Texas, for example, an individual must have an annual household income of less than $30,000 and a total net worth of less than $70,000 (excluding the value of their home and up to one acre of land).

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program is one of the largest free tax preparation services available in the United States. Volunteers who are trained and certified by the IRS provide free tax counseling and basic income tax return preparation to low- and moderate-income taxpayers, with special attention to those 60 years of age and older. The program is offered at more than 5,000 locations nationwide, including senior centers, libraries, community centers, and churches.

Finally, MyFreeTaxes is a national initiative that provides free federal and state tax filing assistance for households that earn $58,000 or less annually. The program is offered in partnership with H&R Block and United Way Worldwide, and it's available online as well as over the phone.

Assistance Club Summary

The bottom line about assistance programs for low-income seniors: The #1 thing to remember is: “Help exists!”

Look for resources and assistance on the state, county, and federal levels. Check with local organizations, charities, and faith-based organizations

And, if you need help to keep looking, ask a friend. It’s always easier to stay focused, positive, and resourceful with a friend by your side.

We wish you good luck and good health in your search!