Old age is inevitable, and all of us have to come to terms with it. Those who have the foresight begin preparing early on for basic amenities of life such as health, security, and independence. This requires a significant amount of capital, and as we know all too well, the distribution of wealth doesn’t allow all stratas of society to enjoy retirement.

Making this even more complicated is the growing concern that too many elders carry the burden of debt – one that drains from their coffers bit by bit. According to the Federal Reserve Board, the median debt for an average elderly household increased from $18,385 in 2001 to $40,900 in 2013. These senior citizens, who qualify for low-income benefits do not even apply for it because they don’t know that such a thing even exists.

As a result, millions of seniors in the United States lose out on more than $20 billion allocated to help pay for their food, medicine, and heating.  All these reasons don’t mean that an elderly person with limited financial capacity should struggle during their twilight years. While the system is clearly in place, the information isn’t as readily available as it should. What we need is more evangelism, and that is where the regulatory bodies come into the picture.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) in partnership with the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) started an awareness campaign, “You Gave, Now Save”. The goal of this program is to make all of this funding easily accessible to as many senior citizens as possible.

What the poorest seniors are missing out on

Eligible older citizens can avail food assistance by applying through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, entitling them to $1428. A large number also miss out on Supplemental Security Income payments of $6000 annually.

Another program that largely goes unused is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program which includes home heating and cooling assistance for the elderly. We could talk about a slew of health benefits that largely go unnoticed including discounted or free services from state and local governments and even the private sector that might provide tax exemptions, legal assistance, in-home assistance, transportation, and respite care.

How you can help someone in need find appropriate help

It is important to refrain from giving professional advice that requires the aid of a certified person from areas of specialty such as medical care and legal advice. Instead, direct all adults to fill this confidential online questionnaire that is designed to help them narrow down their search for programs that could pay for medicine, food, utilities, health care, and other government subsidized activities.

A lot of these programs can be found on BenefitsCheckUp, a completely free service from the National Council on Aging. A list of these programs that can be paid for include:

  • Medications
  • Utilities
  • Legal services
  • Housing
  • Food
  • Taxes
  • Transportation

The key to solving the helplessness associated with poor senior adults is by educating them about the benefits that the government has provided for them.

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