Many Seniors Missing Out on Benefits

Related topics: Legal & Financial, Financial Planning, Financial

A new online resource could up a low-income senior's budget by 29 percent.

You Gave Now Save booklet cover

There are thousands of public and private programs available to help eligible low-income older adults pay for health care, prescriptions, food and utilities. Yet millions of eligible seniors are missing out because they don't know about the programs or how to apply. As a result, too many make dangerous tradeoffs, such as foregoing needed home repairs, avoiding social engagements, skipping meals and cutting pills.

A recent analysis by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) found that more than 4 million low-income older adults could increase their annual budget as much as 29 percent with readily available benefits programs. Together, NCOA and n4a launched the You Gave, Now Save resource, which combines a newly updated educational guide for older adults, online tools, and one-on-one assistance to help seniors and their caregivers understand and apply for benefits that may help them.

"More than $20 billion in available benefits go unused annually, but often seniors don't know how to access them. The You Gave, Now Save campaign puts that information in their hands," said Sandy Markwood, CEO of n4a. "Area Agencies on Aging also have a vital role to play because they offer in-person counseling to not only help older adults understand their benefits, but also to encourage them to use them."

"Nearly 20 percent of Americans over age 65 struggle to cover their basic needs," said Leslie Fried, Senior Director of NCOA's Center for Benefits Access. "The information in You Gave, Now Save makes it easier for older adults to learn about their options and take action to remain independent. Older adults are an important part of every American community, and it is incumbent upon us to strengthen their economic security."

In its analysis of the costs of aging, NCOA and n4a found:

  • Older adults are struggling to cover their basic expenses: Older adult households spend, on average, $28,644 annually on the basic costs of living. Yet, roughly 8.5 million older Americans have annual incomes below $24,000.
  • More older adults are living in poverty: The percentage of seniors aged 65+ living in poverty (income below $11,880 for an individual in 2016) has crept up from 8.9 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014. Over the same period, the total number of seniors living in poverty has increased from 3.6 million to 4.6 million.
  • Seniors could increase their annual budget by 29% with available benefits: A two-person household with an income of $21,000 annually could be eligible for more than $6,000 a year in benefits, freeing up 29 percent of their annual budget. Without benefits, the same household could incur more than $7,500 in debt that year.
  • Debt levels for seniors are double 2001 levels: Over 60 percent of households headed by a person aged 60+ had some form of debt in 2013. The median debt was $40,900 — or double what it was in 2001.

Older adults and caregivers can learn more about benefits they may be eligible for through two free and trusted resources:

BenefitsCheckUp® ( is NCOA's confidential online screening tool that contains more than 2,000 public and private programs for seniors with limited income.

Eldercare Locator (toll-free 1.800.677.1116 or is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects older adults and caregivers to local agencies and organizations that can help them access a wide range of benefits and supportive services.

To view the complete analysis and learn more about You Gave, Now Save, visit

Source: The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a respected national leader and trusted partner to help people aged 60+ meet the challenges of aging. Its vision is a just and caring society in which each of us, as we age, lives with dignity, purpose and security. And its goal is to improve the health and economic security of 10 million older adults by 2020. Learn more at and @NCOAging.