Senior citizens are among the most economically vulnerable members of our society. 25 million Americans over 60 are considered “economically insecure,” and a third of seniors have no money left at the end of each month. Many older Americans live on fixed incomes and are very vulnerable to inflation, and many have problems with health or mobility that limit where they can live.
Many federal and private grants for seniors exist. The Older Americans Act establishes the need for financial assistance covering different areas. Programs exist at both the state and federal level, and there are ways to secure financial help through several traditional and non-traditional sources. Many of these methods are described here. Contact links for all agencies and organizations discussed here are included at the end of this article.
Food and Nutrition Assistance
Elderly nutrition programs are designed specifically for senior citizens alone, while most older Americans can also take part in programs designed for everyone.
The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides federal money to states, which use the money to give food coupons to low-income seniors. Those coupons can be used to buy food at participating farmers’ markets in the area. The purpose of the program is to increase access to healthy food options. You will need to access the USDA’s SFMNP contact page and find a local contact for your area. You can also find income qualification requirements on the SFMNP income qualifications page.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), sometimes still called “food stamps,” helps low-income families and individuals afford the cost of food on a monthly basis. SNAP for seniors now works through a debit card, transferring money from an account to the participating store. Many stores participate in SNAP, although SNAP does place some limits on what items you can purchase through the program. You can apply for SNAP at your local benefits office. SNAP is funded by the federal government but administered at the state level. Access the SNAP Application and Local Office Page for more information.
The federal Nutrition Services Incentive Program (NSIP) purchases USDA foods and distributes those products to provide help to seniors who may need food assistance. This program is a partnership between state and federal agencies. The only eligibility requirement for NSIP is age, which is a minimum of 60 years. To apply, you will need to contact your local NSIP state distributing agency, which can be located using the NSIP Food Distribution Contacts page.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) can help if you are facing a short-term food emergency. This program, which serves all populations in need, is designed to help cover emergency food needs. TEFAP delivers food at no cost to the recipient. Income requirements may apply, but exact requirements vary by state. You can find local contacts for your state’s TEFAP program by using the USDA’s TEFAP Contacts Page.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides low-income Americans with regular, free food aid assistance. The purpose of CFSP is to help improve the health of those in need. Seniors aged 60 years or older who have an income that is 130% of the Poverty Guidelines can apply. Access the USDA Food Distribution Contacts page to find local contact numbers.
Meals on Wheels provides regular food aid to low-income seniors who either have no family or have no family nearby who can help. This program is privately run, although many local programs do receive some federal aid. Meals on Wheels operates year round and does not charge for their services. Each Meals on Wheels program is locally operated. You can find contact information on the Meals on Wheels Local Programs page.
Housing assistance is available specifically for seniors, who can also use other programs designed for all low-income individuals.
FHA Reverse Mortgages (HECMs) are a Federal Housing Authority program offering older Americans the opportunity to stay in their homes by using a reverse mortgage program. Home Equity Conversion Mortgages let you use the equity built into your home and convert that equity into cash. To qualify, you must be 62 years old, live in a single-family or 2-4 unit home, and have paid off all or most of your mortgage on the home. The FHA offers additional requirements on their HECMs information page. To apply, you can call HUD’s interactive voice system at (800) 569-4287.
The HUD Section 8 Housing Voucher program is a long-standing program for low-income individuals who need assistance to find low-cost housing. Section 8 housing vouchers provide both access to discounted housing units and money to pay for housing through privately owned rental units. Section 8 Housing Vouchers are funded federally and administered at the local level. To apply for a Section 8 Housing Voucher, you will need to contact a local Public Housing Agency. You can find contact information for your local PHA using HUD’s PHA Contact Information page.