Resources for Seniors in Massachusetts
With one of the highest costs of living indices in the United States, living in Massachusetts can be a challenge for seniors. Services are priced higher than average due to the bustling cities in the state. With renowned educational institutions, residents constantly get exposed to a mix of cultures. However, different programs have been set up to protect seniors in the state who live on limited income. The state goes a step further by having some laws that clearly protect the interests of the elderly population.
State Resources for Seniors
The Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) in Massachusetts provides many resources to point seniors in the right direction when looking for help. Some programs are also sponsored by the government to deliver the best living conditions for seniors. Apart from this, the state has laws put in place to explicitly protect older persons from the effects of hardships that they may face. Seniors in the state can visit https://www.mass.gov/orgs/executive-office-of-elder-affairs to get started with the resources available to them.
Free and Low-cost Dental Care
Donated Dental Services, a program offered by the Dental Lifeline Network provides free dental care for Massachusetts residents over the age of 65. This program is supported by a network of dentists who come together to volunteer their services to care for the underserved. Comprehensive dental care is provided to eligible seniors, helping them attain better oral health. Dentists choose a suitable care plan for patients and help them follow through with this plan. The services available include cleaning, extractions, crowns, fillings, etc. Due to the nature of the program, emergency services are not provided. Further information on the program, along with an application form can be downloaded from https://dentallifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Massachusetts.pdf.
Residents of Dorchester County can visit Upham’s Corner Health Center to access high quality dental services at low cost. The health center has a dental clinic that provides preventative and restorative dental services. Seniors who need surgical care are referred to oral surgeons for attention. Details on the dental clinic of Upham’s Corner Health Center can be found at https://uphamscornerhealthcenter.org/services-programs/dental/.
Other free and low-cost dental clinics across the state can be looked up using the directory provided at https://www.freedentalcare.us/st/massachusetts.
Health Care Assistance and Free Health Care Clinics
The Medicaid program in Massachusetts is known as MassHealth. Under this program, residents over the age of 65 can enroll for Senior Care Options (SCO). This is a special healthcare program that meets the medical needs of older individuals. SCO has six plans which cover a variety of medical services. Generally, seniors under this program receive coverage on primary care, doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, emergency care, etc. Recipients of SCO pay reduced premiums, making healthcare affordable for them. Procedures that are not explicitly stated may be covered once communication has been established with the care provider. The six SCO plans and their associated links are:
- Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan Senior Care Options https://www.seniorsgetmore.org/
- Commonwealth Care Alliance http://www.commonwealthcaresco.org/
- NaviCare (HMO) navicare.org
- Senior Whole Health by Molina Healthcare https://www.molinahealthcare.com/members/ma/en-US/pages/home.aspx
- Tufts Health Plan Senior Care Options http://www.thpmp.org/sco
- UnitedHealthCare http://www.uhccommunityplan.com/
The Akwaaba Free Health Program allows financially challenged and uninsured seniors get access to proper medical treatment. Competent healthcare professionals deliver comprehensive treatment, lab tests, prescription refills, and other services at no cost. Patients with chronic conditions are referred to more specialized hospitals where they can get better care. Seniors can find more information on this health program and similar ones at https://www.worcesterfreecare.org/.
Other clinics across the state offer free or low-cost services to elderly persons. These clinics can be found sorted by location at https://www.freeclinics.com/sta/massachusetts.
Charities and Organizations that help seniors
The Friends of Dennis Senior Citizens, is a nonprofit organization that is committed to helping out elderly residents of Dennis. The organization provides assistance to seniors in various forms. Financial assistance is provided to help pay for medical bills, dental care, car repairs, home repairs, and other emergencies. Social activities are hosted to provide an avenue for socialization and exercise for healthy living. Apart from these direct programs, Friends of Dennis Senior Citizens funds aid programs hosted by other agencies. A full list of the services offered is available at https://friendsofdennisseniors.com/what-we-do/.
FriendshipWorks is another charity organization in the state. Services are available for seniors aged 60 and above; however, the age consideration may be reduced to 55 years if the individual suffers vision or hearing loss. Through the help of volunteers, seniors are able to get medical escorts who can take them to and from doctors’ appointments. Housekeeping assistance is also provided, with volunteers helping out with small chores around the house. Details of this charity organization can be found at https://fw4elders.org/.
Elderly Massachusetts residents can get assistance from Ethos. This is a private charity organization that provides services to promote the independence and well-being of seniors. Nutrition and feeding programs are available, to help older individuals get access to healthy food. Home assistance is also provided to those who cannot carry out certain essential functions alone. Seniors can visit https://www.ethocare.org/ for more information on Ethos.
Other charities that provide senior assistance are listed at https://greatnonprofits.org/state/Massachusetts/category:Seniors/sort:review_count/direction:desc.
Financial Assistance Options
The Social Security Administration provides Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to elderly individuals who have limited resources. SSI benefits are available for seniors over the age of 65 who meet the program’s income restrictions. Money is provided monthly to eligible persons to help them meet their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. The state provides additional assistance to SSI recipients through the Massachusetts State Supplement Program (SSP). This program makes additional funds available by adding some extra money to the SSI benefits. Seniors with income above the SSI threshold can still apply for SSP and may receive partial benefits from the state through the program. Further details on these programs in Massachusetts can be found at https://www.mass.gov/massachusetts-state-supplement-program-ssp.
Food Assistance – free food
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the most common way seniors can get access to additional food resources. SNAP provides monthly benefits which can be used to increase food budget and get access to healthy food items. Beneficiaries are issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) Card to which their monthly benefits are loaded. This card can be used like a regular debit card but will only allow the purchase of approved food items in participating grocery stores. Seniors are also encouraged to use their cards to purchase local produce, doing so will help them get as much as $80 back on the card per month through the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). A special SNAP application form for seniors aged 60 and above can be downloaded from https://www.mass.gov/doc/english-snap-application-for-seniors-snap-app-seniors-0/download.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts operates a program called Our Brown Bag: Food for Elders. This program provides groceries on a monthly basis to eligible seniors. The items packaged are healthy foods that will help seniors meet their nutrition needs. Seniors can visit https://www.foodbankwma.org/get-help/brown-bag-food-for-elders/ for more details on the program and distribution locations. A mobile food bank is also operated by the organization. This mobile food bank delivers fresh groceries to community sites on a truck so that seniors can get easy access to food. This program has no eligibility requirements and can be beneficial to seniors whose documented financial status prevents them from qualifying for other assistance options. More information on the mobile food bank is available at https://www.foodbankwma.org/get-help/mobile-food-bank/.
The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) coordinates the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) in Massachusetts. This program provides monthly food packages to qualified low-income seniors to support their diets. GBFB partners with local agencies to get healthy and durable food items across to seniors in need. Volunteers also frequently add fresh fruits to the packs, improving the nutrition quality of each distribution. Details on the program, along with partner organizations can be found at https://www.gbfb.org/what-we-do/our-programs/commodity-supplemental-food-program/.
Housing – Home Repair Assistance
The Section 504 Home Repair Program provides financial assistance which can be used to undertake essential home repairs and modifications. Loans are provided with low interest rate to qualified low-income residents to help remove health and safety hazards or restore structural integrity. The loans have and upper limit of $40,000 with a 1% interest rate and a repayment period spread out over 20 years. Seniors over the age of 62 may qualify for grants. These grants come at a maximum value of $10,000 and can be used to carry out repairs or accessibility modifications to the home. Seniors who receive a grant are required to continue living in the home for at least 3 years afterward, or they have to repay the grant. For those who can afford to pay for part but not all the home repairs, a combination of a loan and grant may be offered. Interested seniors can visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs/single-family-housing-repair-loans-grants/ma for more information.
MassHousing provides loans for financially challenged homeowners in the state. Elderly residents may obtain loans of up to $50,000 to carry out essential repairs through the program offered. Eligibility for the loan is based on income levels and loans come with a 5% interest rate. The repayment period usually ranges from 5-15 years. Seniors can obtain further details from https://www.masshousing.com/.
NeighborWorks Housing Solutions has several loan and grant options to help repair or modify homes. Emergency grants are also available to cater to those who need urgent repairs done on their homes. The different loans and grants offered have their unique conditions and are tailored to meet differing needs. More information on these assistance options can be found at https://nhsmass.org/homeowner-loans/.
The Councils on Aging in the state usually provide transport support services to the elderly. The transport options are available to help get seniors to and from medical appointments, senior centers, grocery stores, etc. Various types of transportation options exist to serve seniors with different needs. Long distance medical shuttles are provided across the state to help seniors in rural areas get access to quality medical care. These are listed at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/health-care-transportation.
Plymouth and Brockton (P&B) is a bus service agency that provides transit services across the state. The company offers different fare prices to accommodate seniors and buses are equipped with mobility devices. Seniors who require special assistance can call ahead to make a request and will be attended to throughout the trip. More information can be found at https://www.p-b.com/.
A & A Metro transportation is another transport agency with specialized services. Seniors can schedule non-emergency medical trips, general visits, etc. The company provides access to senior-friendly transportation, along with disability assistance. The drivers have basic first aid training and can attend to minor health challenges that may arise during a trip. Seniors who want to get more details on the programs offered can visit https://www.aametro.com/services/.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has fixed route scheduled services that run across the state, which includes bus and subway services. Elderly residents may qualify for discounted fares. Some of these fare discounts include Senior Charlie Card, Transportation Access Pass, etc. The MBTA also has a special program known as The RIDE. This program provides door-to-door transportation services for seniors. Transporation is provided as a shared ride with other passengers going in the same direction. The RIDE services allow flexibility of movement as the operating hours are from 5am to 1am. More details on the program can be obtained from https://www.mbta.com/accessibility/the-ride while other general information on MBTA can be found at https://www.mbta.com/.
Several other transportation options are available for seniors in the state. This includes volunteer services, taxi hires, curb-to-curb services, etc. They can all be accessed using a special search tool provided at https://massridematch.org/.
Help with Utility Bills
Seniors in Massachusetts can apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to get assistance with paying their utility bills. LIHEAP primarily focuses on settling the heating bills of low-income residents during the cold winter months. Eligibility for the program is determined by the income and asset value of seniors who apply. Seniors can visit the LIHEAP website at https://www.mass.gov/service-details/low-income-home-energy-assistance-program-liheap to find more information. Discounted services are also available for seniors who are already receiving some form of financial aid.
For households made up exclusively of seniors over the age of 65, the state prevents the electricity and gas companies from shutting off services. This comes in handy for elderly people who live independently and are unable to settle their utility bills. Households with other adults who are not seniors are also protected from disconnection from mid-November to mid-March. This period allows alternative payment plans and methods to be arranged, without causing the discomfort of disconnection from services. Seniors who are experiencing difficulties paying for their utilities are also advised to inform the vendor so that consideration can be given to their circumstances. For more details, visit https://www.mass.gov/info-details/help-paying-your-utility-bill.
The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) is similar to LIHEAP but is set up to pay the drinking and wastewater bills of challenged households. Seniors may be able to receive benefits of up to $450 to settle current and outstanding water utility payments. This program takes into account factors like household size, income, water requirements, etc. in order to determine a reasonable amount to be awarded. Additional details on LIHWAP can be found on the program page at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/lihwap.
Grants for Senior Veterans
Veterans in Massachusetts who are experiencing hardship can apply for financial assistance under the Chapter 115 program. This initiative helps qualified low-income veterans with funds for basic expenses like food, clothing, housing supplies, medical care, shelter, support of dependent family members, etc. Veterans can get assistance of up to $1,000, or sometimes more, depending on individual cases. This assistance can be one-off or an ongoing assistance, based on need. Veterans who have interest in applying can use the calculator provided at https://massvetben.org/calculator/ to get an estimate of how much they may receive.
Supportive Servcices for Veteran Families is another program that can provide help to veterans in need. This program helps ensure housing stability and prevent homelessness among veterans in the state. Eligible applicants can get help with locating low-cost accommodation options, paying for rent, settling utility bills, etc. More details on the program are available at https://www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf/index.html.