Maine can be an amazing state for seniors to live in. The summers are mild, reducing the need for cooling. However, the winters can be very extreme, with intense storms. In relation to this, the state has programs that focus on providing heating services to seniors all through the cold winter months. Through these challenges, Maine still remains a welcoming state. With the lowest crime rate across the country, the elderly can live with a sense of safety. The fact that the state has the highest percentage of veteran residents further indicates the hospitability enjoyed by seniors and veterans alike.
State Resources for Seniors
The State of Maine provides a wealth of resources directed towards seniors and ensuring a healthy life for older residents. Some state-sponsored programs provide assistance, while private programs are linked as well to give maximum coverage of needs. Resources available cover various areas of concern like health, feeding, transportation, etc. These can all be found hosted at https://www.maine.gov/portal/residents/seniors.html.
The Dental Lifeline Network, through their Donated Dental Services (DDS) program provides free dental care to seniors in Maine. Comprehensive dental treatment is provided for residents over the age of 65 who would otherwise not have access to dental care. The services covered include cleanings, root canals, dentures, etc. Seniors can visit https://dentallifeline.org/maine/ for more information, or download an application from https://dentallifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Maine.pdf.
Community Dental offers preventive and restorative dental services for seniors in Maine. The clinic provides services on a sliding scale basis to uninsured residents who meet income requirements. Through this arrangement, seniors are charged a small fee based on their income level. For more details on the services offered by Community Dental, visit https://www.communitydentalme.org/.
Strong Dental Center provides comprehensive dental care services to seniors at a reduced cost. This is done through a program known as HealthReach Affordable Care. With assistance from this program, income eligible seniors can get dental care with a payment of $50, while the rest is paid off. Proof of income is required to participate in the program; however, the process can be simplified by presenting documents which show that the senior is a beneficiary of financial assistance from other programs. Seniors who wish to visit the clinic for services can check http://www.strongchc.org/AffordableCareProgram.aspx for more information, along with the income guidelines.
Several other dental clinics across the state offer special assistance for seniors. A comprehensive directory of these clinics is provided by the state government at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/odh/documents/directory.pdf.
Seniors can apply for MaineCare, the state’s version of the Medicaid program designed to provide low-cost insurance for residents. Through MaineCare, elderly citizens can get assistance paying for doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, treatment regimens, medical transportation etc. Eligibility for MaineCare is usually determined by income, but some people over the income limit may still be admitted into the program. Seniors can apply online at https://www1.maine.gov/benefits/account/login.html or download an application from https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/applications-forms. More information on MaineCare can be obtained from https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/health-care-assistance.
In addition to the MaineCare program, the state has a law that requires all hospitals to provide healthcare as required to residents whose income falls below 150% of the federal poverty level. This must be done, irrespective of the patient’s inability to pay. The law makes it possible for low-income seniors to access medical care easily. For more details, visit https://www.mainehealth.org/Patients-Visitors/Billing-Insurance/Financial-Assistance/Free-Care. The Maine Federal Poverty Level calculator updated for 2023 can help you determine whether your household is living below the poverty level.
The MedAccess Prescription Assistance Program is funded by MaineHealth to help residents get access to prescription medication. MedAccess may connect with pharmaceutical companies to obtain drugs from them at discounted prices so they can be made available to eligible residents. Participating in MedAccess does not cost seniors any extra fees, but rather reduces medication costs. More information on MedAccess is available at https://www.mainehealth.org/Patients-Visitors/Billing-Insurance/Financial-Assistance/MedAccess.
Charities and Organizations
The Catholic Charities of Maine helps seniors by connecting them to younger volunteers in their areas. This connection service provides the seniors with a chance for socialization, as well as giving them someone who can run errands like going grocery shopping and help with minor maintenance tasks in the home. Volunteers may also provide seniors with transportation assistance. The organization runs a food bank from where seniors can come to pick up food items that they need for sustenance. At some locations, clothing pickups are available as well. Seniors can visit https://www.ccmaine.org/ for assistance.
The Salvation Army runs senior centers which host seniors from age of 55 years and above. Disaster services provide emergency relief in form of feeding, clothes, shelter, etc. after disasters occur. Vouchers may also be issued to seniors. Apart from these vouchers, seniors can visit thrift stores operated by the Salvation Army to purchase items at highly discounted prices. Elderly residents who need help can find more information at https://nne.salvationarmy.org/portland-me/.
The Social Security Administration provides a special form of assistance to seniors over the age of 65. This is referred to as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and comes in form of monthly payments made to help seniors meet their living expenses. Unlike other forms of assistance which have a specific need that they must be used to meet (e.g., utilities), SSI funds can be used by seniors for any purpose. The program is available to seniors with very low income and asset values. More information on SSI can be found at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/ssi/.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly benefits for low-income residents, including seniors. Eligibility for the program, and benefits allocated are determined by income, expenses, asset value and household size. Eligible seniors receive their benefits on an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. This is a debit card which can be used to purchase authorized food items from participating grocery stores around the state. To get more information on SNAP in Maine, visit https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/food-supplement.
Seniors over the age of 60 can get nutrition and food support through the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. This program aims to improve the health of seniors by providing them with food items to supplement their diets. Every month, food boxes containing items like milk, fruits, vegetables, cereal, etc. are distributed to seniors. These food items are not meant to serve as the primary nutrition source, but rather as a way of ensuring that proper nutrition is gotten. Seniors in the state can visit https://www.maine.gov/dacf/ard/tefap/supplemental_food.shtml for more information on the program, as well as contact details to apply in various counties.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides free emergency food assistance to low-income residents of Maine. This food is distributed through local agencies that ensure the items get to those who need them. Usually, seniors can get assistance either by picking up items from a food pantry, which they can take home to prepare, or by eating in a group setting like a soup kitchen. For more details, visit https://www.maine.gov/dacf/ard/tefap/index.shtml
Housing Assistance and Home Repair Grants
Elderly residents of Kennebec Valley can apply for the Home Repair Program. This program provides assistance that can help seniors make repairs to their homes. Funding is available to seniors over the age of 60 and with income less than 80% of the Area Median Income to cover repairs that address health and safety issues around the home. Interested seniors can find more details and fill out the application form provided at https://www.kvcap.org/for-the-home/energy-housing-services-overview/home-repair-program/.
Maine State Housing Authority runs a grant program to help low-income residents who do not have the resources to make essential repairs to their homes. This grant covers things like roof and chimney repairs, structural repairs, energy efficiency improvement, accessibility modifications, etc. The program is open to seniors who have income below 80% of the Area Median Income and who have resided in the home for at least a year. For more information, visit https://www.mainehousing.org/programs-services/HomeImprovement/homeimprovementdetail/home-repair.
Seniors can also take advantage of the Section 504 Home Repair program. Through this program, grants of up to $10,000 can be obtained to make repairs and accessibility modifications on the home. The grant is provided to seniors over the age of 62 and on the condition that the home would not be sold for 3 years. Seniors below the age of 62 can apply for home repair loans of up to $40,000. The interest rate is fixed at 1%, with a 20-year tenure. For more information, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs/single-family-housing-repair-loans-grants/me.
The Regional Transportation Program (RTP) provides safe and efficient transportation services to low-income seniors in Cumberland County, Maine. Seniors can get rides to medical appointments, grocery stores, malls, entertainment venues, etc. Depending on the destination, seniors may ride on RTP buses, vans, or in the cars of volunteer drivers. Vehicles owned by RTP usually have accessibility modifications to support elderly customers with reduced mobility and drivers may offer some assistance with getting on and off the buses. For more details, visit https://www.rtprides.org/.
Seniors who are covered by the MaineCare program can get non-emergency transportation to get them to and from medical appointments. Ride scheduling usually requires a 2-day lead time to coordinate services. However, the transportation provided is reliable and helps ensure that schedule doctors’ visits can be made. More information can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/oms/member-resources/transportation.
Western Maine Transportation Services (WMTS) offers scheduled rides along with flexible routes across various areas of the state. For older customers aged 60 and above, reduced fares are available on selected routes, with a 50% discount. Apart from this, seniors can also ride on certain routes for free. This gives a chance to connect to other parts of the state as required. Seniors can explore transit options at https://www.wmtsbus.org/transit-options/.
Other available transportation options in different regions of the state can be found at https://www.exploremaine.org/commuters/, listed along with contact details.
Help with Utility Bills
Seniors who are experiencing difficulty paying for their utility bills can apply to get help under different programs.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps challenged elderly citizens with their utility bill payments. LIHEAP eligibility is determined by income levels and while assistance is provided, the program is not intended to cover the entirety of costs. LIHEAP benefits can be used to pay for heating costs like oil, propane, natural gas, electric bills, etc. The program is administered by the Maine State Housing Authority (MSHA) in collaboration with local Community Action Agencies.
The Low-Income Assistance Program (LIAP) is similar to LIHEAP but focuses on paying electric bills for challenged residents. Eligible Maine seniors receive a credit on their electric bills with the utility company. LIAP has the same eligibility requirements as LIHEAP and both programs can be applied for through the Community Action Agencies.
Maine also offers a General Assistance program that can help seniors with different financial challenges, including fuel and utility bills. Qualified seniors do not receive the funds directly. Rather, vouchers are issued to the utility companies on their behalf. Applications are submitted physically at local municipal offices. More information on the General Assistance program in Maine can be found at https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ofi/programs-services/general-assistance.
The Utility companies that provide gas to residents of Maine run programs to help their financially challenged customers. Seniors can receive discounts of up to 30% on their gas bills once they are approved by the Maine State Housing Authority. The program is available to those eligible for LIHEAP and discounts are provided for 12 continuous months. Seniors can find more details on the programs offered by each utility company by visiting https://www.maine.gov/mpuc/regulated-utilities/natural-gas/distributors.
Assistance with telephone bills may be gotten through the Lifeline program. Seniors receive a considerable credit to help service parts of their phone bills and internet broadband service costs. This helps bring down the overall monthly phone payments and helps sustain connectivity.
For more information on the above programs and other available utility assistance programs for seniors, visit https://www.maine.gov/mpuc/consumer-assistance/programs.
Assistance for Senior Veterans
With over 11% of the population being veterans, Maine has the highest concentration of veterans in any state. To this end, the state has a financial guide book to help steer veterans on the right track, pointing them to valuable support resources. This guide can be found at https://www.maine.gov/veterans/docs/Veterans_%20Guide_%202019-01.pdf.
The Veterans’ Emergency Financial Assistance (VEFA) helps financially challenged veterans who are facing emergency situations. Money is provided to help veterans meet urgent needs and to ensure that they have access to food, clothing and shelter. Through VEFA, applicants may receive up to $2,000 of financial assistance. Information and contact details for assistance can be found at https://www.maine.gov/veterans/benefits/tax-finance-benefits/vefa.html.
Maine also has veterans’ homes to house veterans who require rehabilitative services or long-term medical care. These homes are open to veterans and their spouses, allowing them reside in a secure environment with caregivers to provide them continuous assistance. The homes also have a pharmacy where residents can get access to prescribed medication. Interested veterans can visit https://mainevets.org/.
Veterans who have disabilities related to their service period and who are at risk of homelessness can apply for the Special Adapted Housing (SAH) grant. This program provides grants of up to $101,754 to purchase a home in the state. The funds can also be used to build or change the permanent home of eligible veterans. Similar to the SAH, the Special Home Adaptation (SHA) grant also provides funding for disabled veterans who need financial aid to buy or build a home. Through this program, eligible veterans can get up to $20,387 in grant funding for their homes. More information on both programs, as well as eligibility requirements can be obtained from https://www.va.gov/housing-assistance/disability-housing-grants/.