By Colleen Scott, NYSOFA’s Advocacy Specialist
No one is immune to the recent impacts of high inflation and other economic factors that are driving up costs for necessities like food and utilities. Older adults on fixed incomes are especially vulnerable.
Sometimes older adults need assistance but do not know what options might be available to them. Many state and federal assistance programs are available to help. Offices for the Aging and their community partners are encouraged to share these important resources.
Did you know?
- According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over 15 million older adults aged 65+ are economically insecure, with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level.
- According to Justice in Aging, older women are more likely to live in poverty than men due to wage discrimination and having to take time out of the workforce for caregiving.
- According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, over half of Black and Hispanic seniors aged 65+ have incomes below 200% of the Federal poverty line.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, older workers of color are most at risk for unemployment, with older African American men twice as likely to be unemployed as older white men.
- According to the U.S. Census, about 13.1% of LGBT adults lived in a household where there was sometimes or often not enough to eat in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBT adults.
Resources to Help Older Adults
The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) helps adults aged 55+ return to or remain active in the workforce by providing job training, job search services, and on-the-job experience.
Home Delivered Meals provide healthy, nutritious, balanced foods to a participant’s residence up to five days a week, along with up-to-date information about wellness and healthy eating habits. This assistance may be needed over the short term: for instance, when a person is discharged from the hospital and needs help during the recovery period at home. Longer term assistance may be necessary for someone who is unable to prepare their own food as they age. In addition to meal delivery, registered dietitians offer private nutrition counseling to older people, including information about diabetes, weight loss or gain, and healthy eating. To learn more, contact NY Connects at 1-800-342-9871.
Community Dining. Healthy, nutritious, balanced meals are served to older New Yorkers, up to five days a week, in senior centers, senior clubs, senior housing complexes, town halls and other nearby locations. There are about 1,000 locations across the state for meals and many kinds of social activities, too. Registered dietitians at these sites also provide up-to-date information about healthy eating, wellness, and healthy habits. They can answer questions about diabetes, weight loss or gain and healthy eating in private nutrition counseling. This assistance is provided to any older adult at the dining site, including those who do not opt for a meal. Some community sites provide transportation for those who need help getting to one of the meal locations. (Note: Some meal sites may still be utilizing grab-and-go or alternative meal provision during the pandemic.) Contact NY Connects for more information: 1-800-342-9871.
The Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) can help eligible New Yorkers heat and cool their homes. Eligible individuals may receive one regular HEAP benefit per program year and could also be eligible for emergency HEAP benefits if in danger of running out of fuel or having utility service shut off. You can find local HEAP offices here.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits help low-income working people, older adults, people with disabilities, and others put healthy food on the table. Benefits are provided through an electronic benefit card (EBT), similar to a debit or credit card. Eligibility and benefit levels are based on household size, income, expenses, and other factors. Individuals can apply here or in person at their local Department of Social Services.
Once a year, the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) gives eligible, low-income older adults 20 dollars in coupons to buy locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers' markets in New York State. Booklets are available in July and may be used through November. They are given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Understanding insurance options can also help older adults save money. Health Insurance Information Counseling Assistance Program (HIICAP) counselors located in local offices for the aging are available to answer questions about Medicare, Medicare Advantage programs (managed care), Medicare prescription drug coverage, Medigap, and other health and long-term care insurance issues. Counseling is also available through the toll-free HIICAP helpline at 1-800-701-0501. Callers will be prompted to enter their zip code and will be routed to their local offices for the aging to talk with a trained counselor.