More than 17 million Americans 65 and older are living below the poverty line. Unfortunately, the percentage of older adults in poverty has grown over time as the cost of living increases across the country. These older Americans are struggling to keep up with healthcare bills, rising housing costs, inadequate nutrition, and access to transportation, among other things. If you or a loved one is struggling financially, know that resources are available to help. Keep reading to explore how to access resources and programs designed to help seniors with low income. 

Key takeaways:

  • A rising number of older Americans are living below the poverty line.

  • Various federal programs, such as Medicare/Medicaid, SNAP, and SSI/SSDI, are designed to help seniors with low income.

  • States and local communities have organizations and senior services departments that help fulfill the needs of low-income seniors. 

1. Medicare and Medicaid

While Medicare provides health insurance for people aged 65 and older or with certain disabilities, Medicaid offers assistance to people with low incomes and resources. Though the programs are different, they can work together if you are dual-eligible, which means you qualify for both programs. People who are dual-eligible can receive extra support with utilities, food assistance, rent, groceries, and more. 

2. Medicare Extra Help prescription drug program

Medicare Extra Help is a government program that helps reduce healthcare costs for prescription drugs through Medicare. You automatically get Extra Help if you have Medicaid coverage, receive state assistance paying for your Part B premium, or receive supplemental security income (SSI). If you aren’t automatically enrolled in Extra Help and you need assistance, you can submit an application

3. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides monthly payments to people who can’t work due to a disability. To qualify, you must have worked for 5 of the last 10 years and have a disability that affects your ability to work. You’ll also automatically enroll in Medicare 2 years after you begin receiving Disability benefits. Learn more about SSDI and submit an application online.  

4. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is another need-based federal program that provides financial assistance to adults 65 and older with limited income and resources. To qualify, you must have little or no income or resources, and you must be 65 or older or have a disability. The income requirements can change, but you must earn less than $1,971 per month and have less than $2,000 in resources to be eligible for SSI. If you meet the criteria, you can receive monthly cash payments to help cover basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing. You can apply for SSI on the Social Security website. 

5. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP benefits provide essential assistance for low-income seniors struggling to afford nutritious food. Eligibility requirements vary by state but are based on income, household size, and household expenses. While income requirements depend on your state, seniors receiving SSI or SSDI often meet the criteria for SNAP eligibility. Use this state directory to learn more about your state's SNAP program and apply for benefits.

6. Local food banks

Local food banks are another resource for seniors struggling with affording food. Typically, food banks are community-based organizations that collect, store, and distribute food to those in need, including seniors living on limited incomes. You can search for food banks in your area online or visit For seniors who can’t shop for groceries or prepare meals themselves, Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious meals with the help of local volunteers. 

7. Local Housing and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

LIHEAP is a federally funded program that helps with energy costs, like heating and cooling bills. This program reduces health and safety problems that can occur when we use unsafe heating and cooling situations and practices. Similarly, the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) provides assistance for low-income households with their water and wastewater bills. To apply, contact your local LIHEAP office.

8. Elder law clinics for legal assistance

Elder law clinics provide free or low-cost legal assistance to seniors facing various legal issues, including housing disputes, consumer rights, healthcare access, and estate planning. They can also be helpful when enrolling in SSI/SSDI benefits. You can find an attorney through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) or your local bar association.     

9. Nonprofits that help older adults

Nonprofits can help provide social support and address the unique challenges that older adults living on limited incomes face. One prominent organization is AARP, which provides educational materials, community events, and discounts on various products and services for its members. Many states have senior service departments that rent durable medical equipment, provide insurance assistance, answer healthcare questions, and set residents up with home safety services. Find local aging organizations in your area.

10. Senior transportation programs and discounted public transportation

Transportation can be a significant challenge for seniors, particularly those with limited mobility or financial resources. Many communities offer transportation services for older adults, including discounted or free public transportation, volunteer-driven programs, and rideshare services. Certain Medicare Advantage plans also provide transportation assistance, especially if you are dual-eligible.

Navigating life with low income can be difficult, but remember that help is available. For Medicare and Social Security support, you can get in touch with a licensed Medicare Advisor— call us at 855-900-2427, or schedule a time to chat for free advice tailored to your situation.

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