15 Ways for Seniors to Supplement a Limited Income

This question was submitted by a reader via the Quick Question Tab:

I’m 63 yrs of age.   I’ve existed on social security disability & VA disability for
about 12 to 13 yrs. My question is, due to my limited income, it would be very
helpful if I could learn about the in’s & out’s re: gov grants for people who are of
the retirement age & who are handicapped? Any help in finding info in regards to



There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding government grants.   Neither the state nor federal government usually give any grants directly to individuals.  There are only a few exceptions such as student grants.

Unfortunately for your specific situation, there are no direct free grants available.  I will more about how Federal and state grants work in another post.  In the meantime, you can actually use the Small Business Tool on this site to explore what federal grants are currently available.

However, there are quite a few programs that you could benefit from as a senior on limited income.


  • For Medical needs – The Federal government provides a medical program called Medicaid for low income people but they give the funds to the states to manage.  The information is in the state section below.
  • At 65, you will have access to Medicare.  You may be qualified to get Medicare early because of your disabilities.   You would need to check this with a local Medicare office.  Be warned though, applying for Medicare is a complicated process to do correctly when trying to maximize your benefits.
  • You may be qualified to have both Medicare and Medicaid.

  • Meals on Wheels – Many seniors especially those in their 80s, 90s, and 100s have outlived their savings.  To help seniors with at least getting enough food to eat, the Meals on Wheels program is partially subsidized by federal, state, county and city grants.   You can either request meals to be delivered to your home or come to a senior center daily for meals and meet other people.   Depending on where you live, there may be a waiting list because of lack of funding.

I know that for the Meals on Wheels program in my community, I and other volunteers have made a commitment that we would do whatever is necessary to feed any seniors who are truly in need.   Not every community will make this commitment because government grants only cover about 30-35% of the actual food cost.  The government does not reimburse for staff time or delivery costs.   It takes each local organization a tremendous amount of effort to get donations to cover the remainder of the food expenses.   Many non-profit groups address their overhead costs by setting a limit of how many people they will serve.

  • Food Stamps – the name has been changed to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).   Information on an individual’s eligibility can be found  here.
  • Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program for Seniors – The Federal government provides grants to states and local agencies for food coupons to low income seniors.  You can trade in these coupons at Farmer’s Markets to purchase fresh produce.
  • Welfare – This federal program pays money to people with low income.  It is federally funded but also managed by the states.   Links for all the state agencies can be found here.
  • Weatherization Program – If you live in a harsh climate state such as North Dakota, there is a federal program that helps low income people with making their home more energy efficient and weather resistant.   You have to find out from your state if they participate and get the details about the program.


As a veteran, you have more resources available to you than the average senior.

There has been a lot of new changes and regulations for the VA department.  These are just some of the highlights. You should get an update from your local veteran center.

  • Health Care – Veterans and their dependents have full access to the VA Health Care system.  The government has been trying to streamline it.  There is a portal now that you can log on and get personalized information about your veterans health benefits.


  • Health care needs – You can check with your state about their specific program and see if you would qualify for help with the health care costs.  This is funded by the Federal Medicaid program.  For example, in California, it is called Medi-Cal.   There are several medical insurance companies that actually specializes in handling only low income participants in government programs.   Some of them are nationwide and some are only in specific states.   Keep in mind that most states have cut the benefits provided by these programs due to their own state budget crisis.

  • Transportation – Certain states,  counties, and cities fund programs that provide low cost transportation to low income seniors for trips that include doctor or hospital visits.   Many of these programs also include visits to the VA hospitals.   In some states these programs go by the name Medical Assistance Transportation.
  • Extra programs – Many states have an entire department devoted to the needs of seniors.  The specifics differ from state to state.   California has a Department of Aging currently run by Lynn Daucher.   Check directly with your state’s website for more details.
  • Some cities also have separate programs as well.   Check with your local community service department.  Many cities typically also help fund or support a senior center.  Some of the typcial programs available include:
    • access and training to computers
    • exercise and fitness programs
    • extended education
    • case management
    • adult day health care
    • arts and craft programs


  • United Way – check with your local United Way for a list of local non profits that provide service and help for seniors and disabled people.    This organization will be a good starting point for you.  Note that not all non profits are registered with the United Way because of certain requirements.
  • Cities – Cities will also list non profits who service the area.   Check on your city’s offical website or call the programs department directly.
  • Church, mosque or synagogue – Check to see if they provide local programs and support.  Not all of them do because some are focused on philanthropy directed to projects outside of the country.   What assistance is available will differ depending upon the area in which you live.
  • Catholic Church – The church or convent will provide help regardless of religious affiliation.  The scope of the programs depend on how much funding or donation the Catholic church in your area receives.  I have volunteered in programs such as Christmas in April when hundreds of volunteers from all denominations were dropped off at the homes of needy seniors.  One year, we spent the weekend cleaning, repairing, and upgrading the home for a wheelchair bound Jewish lady.
  • Food Banks –  Most counties have these available for staples such as rice, beans, and other basic food groups.
  • Senior discounts – Don’t forget to always as for your senior discounts.  They start applying at age 55.   Most businesses have some sort of discount program.

I hope this list will at least help you with some of your needs.

Readers:    Do you have any other suggestions or experiences that you can share to help Pat?

© 2010 MoneyandRisk.com all rights reserved

photo credit: GWSA


  1. Kim, what an awesome post. I’m coming over from SITS 31 DBBB and I am just in awe of how comprehensive your post is. My parents are 63 and thankfully planned well for thier retirement years, but as it is hit everyone the economy has made things very tight for them. I will definitely pass on this wonderful post to them.

    1. Candice,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot.

      Since your parents are 63, keep an eye out for future posts. We will be addressing the key things that people need to do when they’re 64. This is a critical time period for them and will affect the rest of their retirement benefits from the government.

  2. This was very caring of you to post this information! People need all the help they can get! It is too bad some Republicans would like to see many social programs eliminated causing even further hardship for the poor, elderly, and actually, the middle class!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>