Resources for Older Adults Surviving on Social Security

January 17, 2019

Nine out of ten Americans 65 and older are receiving Social Security. And the average monthly Social Security benefit for those 65 and older is $1,262. Many receive much less than that. In your working life, the idea of retiring, living comfortably and enjoying yourself always appeared on the horizon but once you got there, however, you found mostly struggle. Inflation, low-wage jobs, health issues, improper planning, the recent financial crisis or dozens of other reasons now find you just scratching by rather than savoring your retirement. If you are one of the many that is struggling to get by, here are some resources to help with some of your expenses.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If you are receiving Social Security alone, consider applying for SSI. This benefit is available to people with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. The average monthly benefit for an individual is $771 and $1,157 for a couple. Some states add an additional small supplement to these amounts. You can the toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to apply for SSI or to see if you qualify.

Affordable Senior Housing

Housing is your biggest expense. And not only is it a big expense, it’s also a crushing burden for many seniors Finding affordable senior housing may be one of the biggest challenges facing seniors and their loved ones. The largest provider of affordable housing in the country is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Housing vouchers (formerly known as Section 8) provides rental assistance in the private housing market. These vouchers are linked to specific properties run by local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs)

In addition to HUD-sponsored senior housing, some communities have created their own senior residences funded locally. The best way to learn about these housing options is to contact your local Area Agency on Aging 4.

Medicare Savings Program

If you need help paying your Medicare premiums, you may qualify for one of four Medicare Savings Programs.

  1. Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) Program
  2. Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB) Program
  3. Qualifying Individual (QI) Program
  4. Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI) Program

If you meet certain conditions, these programs may also pay Medicare Part A and Part B deductibles and copayments. And if you qualify for a QI, SLMB or QMB program, you are automatically entitled to Extra Help. To see income and resource limits and find out how to apply, go to the Medicare Savings Program website or call California Advocates at 916-231-5110.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

There are nearly 48 million Americans on food stamps also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is the country’s largest food safety net.

Nine percent of SNAP benefits go to seniors. But only one-third of eligible seniors are receiving benefits according to The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). There are several reasons for this. Some seniors have mobility and technological barriers, while for others, there is a stigma (76% of seniors surveyed) attached to receiving benefits. Some mistakenly believe that the benefit amount is too small to bother with. But in fact the average monthly benefit for those 60 and older was over $150 according to FRAC. To find out if you may be eligible call your local Agency on Aging Area 4.


Getting to the doctor, the grocery store and other necessities is crucial for seniors to remain independent. But maintaining a car is not a possibility for most seniors whether due to cost or physical disability. Transportation is particularly difficult for rural residents who may live miles from the nearest store, doctor, or pharmacy.

In addition to public options (bus, metro, etc.), many communities provide free or reduced rate transportation options to seniors and the disabled. Local senior centers, Agency on Aging Area 4, and faith-based volunteer driver programs are just some of the sources of senior transportation. For help finding transportation resources in your area, call seniors first at 916-231-5110

Residential Repairs/Modifications

There are several private non-profit companies and some through the state of California that offer free house repair or house modification to help support people with disabilities, including seniors to continue to live in their own homes and not become institutionalized.

So if you have a leaky faucet or need grab bars in your bathroom call your local Agency on Aging Area 4. Some of the free provided services include installing grab bars to prevent falls; installing hand rails; repairing leaky faucets; support in building ramps; and minor entryway repairs.

EO Care Manager.