About 2.4 million (36% of the population) Tennesseans are 50+. Older adults aged 60+ form 22.9% of the entire population, and 10.8% of the elderly persons aged 65+ are living on their own. With several social and economic issues affecting seniors in this age group, understanding their status is crucial. With a current housing index of 87.60 and all the social and economic benefits, retiring in Tennessee is quite affordable. A one-bedroom apartment costs $623 per month, significantly lower than the country’s average, $825. There are also programs and services throughout the state to support seniors’ journey of aging healthy and strong. Here are the resources for seniors in Tennessee.
Living Options for Seniors in Tennessee
Seniors have many options for living, depending on their needs and circumstances. They can choose between independent living, assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes. It is important to review each option or seek professional advice to determine which option best works for a senior loved one.
Independent Living: Tennessee boasts over 200 independent living facilities, and they cost between $715 and $3,080 per month. There are several 55+ and 65+ communities suitable for older adults who prefer apartment-style living. These facilities are for older adults who can thrive on their own without constant care or help with Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). The communities offer fitness centers, walking trails, socialization opportunities, pools, and meeting rooms, among others.
Assisted Living: There are over 460 assisted living facilities offering attentive caregivers, healthcare services, access to local activities, and socialization opportunities. Residents of these facilities need help with ADLs, including bathing, grooming, preparing meals, feeding, and medication management. Amenities in these communities include housekeeping and meal services. Laundry services, transportation, and 24-hour staffing to enhance the safety of residents. These facilities cost anything between $1,300 and $5,600 in Tennessee. The most expensive assisted living services are found in Kingsport – Bristol areas. Morristown area boasts some of the cheapest facilities in town.
Memory Care: A memory care facility costs an average of $60, 291 a year. The prices vary depending on the area and the level of need. Memory care facilities are designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The monthly costs of these facilities range between $1,885 and $8,120. Memory care facilities are expensive, but they are the most appropriate living option for older adults with memory-related diseases. These facilities are staffed by experienced professionals who are 24/7 monitoring the patients to reduce the frustrations that come with suffering from dementia. Kingsport and Bristol’s areas have the most expensive memory care facilities. Morristown has cheaper facilities.
Nursing Homes: Nursing homes are for older adults with chronic illnesses that come with aging and need constant care. These facilities are staffed with skilled nursing professionals who work to ensure seniors are well taken care of. Tennessee has 43 one-star and 61 two-star nursing home care facilities offering quality services to the elderly. Nursing homes can be extremely expensive because of the level of care. The facilities cost about 80% more than assisted living communities in the state. The cost depends on whether a senior loved one is put in a private or semi-private room. The average cost of a semi-private room is $7,072 while that of a private room is $7,619, as of 2020. The prices vary, depending on the location.
Programs for Seniors in Tennessee
There are federal-state programs and services, organizations, and charities supporting seniors in a different ways.
Commission on Aging & Disability: The Tennessee Commission on Aging & Disability works to support elderly persons and older adults with disabilities through a system that promotes health, dignity, independence, and security by providing programs and services.
National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP): NFCSP offers support to family caregivers who look after older Tennesseans with chronic ailments and those living with disabilities. Created under the Older Americans Act Amendment of 2000, this program is funded by the U.S. Administration on Aging and administered locally by the Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). Eligibility requirements include seniors aged 60+, those with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases, and senior caregivers aged 55+ looking after minors. The program’s services include caregiver training, respite care, personal care, counseling, and adult day care services. Through the program, senior caregivers or those of elderly loved ones may also qualify for Lifespan Respite Grant to give them a temporary break from caregiving. Read more about the program at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/caregiving.html.
Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS): HCBS aims to prevent or delay the need for institutionalization of seniors in long-term care facilities and helping them thrive from the comfort of their homes. These services are provided based on the availability of funds to manage them and the level of the client’s needs. They can include home-delivered meals, personal care, and homemaker services. These services are offered through OPTIONS and Title III-B In-Home Services programs, federal programs funded through the Older Americans Act. To qualify for OPTIONS program support, one must be a senior aged 60+, meet disability definition, and reside in Tennessee. Older adults must also meet ADL limitation requirements. Find out more at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/home-and-community-based-services.html.
Information and Assistance: The purpose of the Tennessee Information and Assistance program is to link older adults with the human and health resources they need, including information related to the services. Sometimes seniors are not sure or aware of the local services that help them age healthy and strong. This program is designed to assist seniors in staying informed and up to date about what is going, on and pointing out the right services, depending on their situations. The program work with specialists who give seniors the necessary directions and respond to any queries they may have. It is the responsibility of the I&A specialists to identify if the caller may qualify for certain state and local programs and services. These services help seniors solve their problems and generally improve their quality of life among them. it is important to get ready to note all the information provided by the specialists before starting the conversation or making the call. For more details, please visit https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/information-and-assistance.html.
Health Promotion and Prevention among Seniors: Tennessee boasts evidence-based programs and services designed to promote health and prevent certain diseases among older adults. The programs aim at helping older adults self-manage their chronic ailments, engage in physical activities to enhance their health and wellness, nutrition assistance, and prevent falls among them.
Stay Active and Independent for Life (SAIL): SAIL is a program committed to assisting the elderly Tennesseans to achieve physical strength, balance, and fitness. The program’s focus is on adults aged 65+ in rural areas with no evidence-based programs. SAIL was introduced in the state through a collaboration between the East Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability and the Healthy Department of Knox County. More information is available at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/sail.html.
Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME): The goal of this program is to offer education and the necessary tools to seniors and older adults with disabilities to enable them to manage their chronic conditions, like arthritis, depression, chronic pain, diabetes, and heart disease. The program operates through workshops that empower older adults to be responsible for their health conditions. More information is available at https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/cd/cdsm.html.
Ombudsman Program: Ombudsman Program is dedicated to offering free support services to older Tennesseans in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living, and adult care facilities. The goal is to help residents of these facilities solve problems they face in their daily lives while receiving long-term care services. The ombudsmen advocate for solutions to these problems and work to help create a favorable environment in the facilities where seniors can thrive.
Financial Assistance for Seniors
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): TANF is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) and offers financial support to low-income older adults to help them gain self-sufficiency. The program funds can be sued to acquire clothing, food, childcare, transportation, and healthcare services. To qualify for the program assistance, seniors must meet the income, residency, and citizenship requirements. Visit https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/families-first-tanf.html for more information.
Healthcare Assistance for Seniors
Tennessee Medicare program: Medicare is a federal program that provides medical insurance to low-income seniors to enable them to pay their healthcare bills. The Medicare program is available for older adults at least 65 or seniors with disabilities. The Original Medicare includes Part A – hospital insurance and Part B – medical insurance. The majority of Medicare beneficiaries have a Part A plan, which can cost up to $499 per month, as of 2022. Part B costs $170.10 per month. These plans are available to any healthcare provider participating in the Medicaid program. Some healthcare providers extend their coverage to dental care, prescription medication, and more, which seniors will have to pay because they are not covered under the Medicare program. Find out more at https://www.tn.gov/aging/publication-reports/state-of-aging/medicare.html.
Tennessee State Health Insurance Assistance Program (TN SHIP): TN SHIP offers free, unbiased counseling services and support to help seniors and their loved ones understand Medicare and the available plans. The goal is to help beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers have their queries about Medicare answered. They also explain the features of each Medicare Coverage and help seniors opt for one that meets their needs and circumstances. The program operates through trained counselors who provide information and assistance to older Tennesseans. More information about SHIP is available at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/state-health-insurance-assistance-program–ship-.html.
Medicaid Tennessee: Medicaid Tennessee offers healthcare support to elderly residents with low income and those with disabilities. Medicaid provides services to seniors with acute medical needs and those in long-term care facilities and can be used to pay for services in nursing homes or assisted living. More information is available at https://www.tn.gov/tenncare/members-applicants/eligibility/tenncare-medicaid.html.
Housing Assistance for Seniors
The housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program provides rental support to low-income elderly Tennesseans. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds the program. The Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) administers the program at the state level, while the Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) are in charge at the local level. The purpose of the program is to provide decent, safe, and affordable housing to low-income seniors. Eligibility for the program assistance is based on income, assets, and the size of the household. The program allows seniors to contribute only about 30% of their income towards their monthly rent, while the government takes care of the rest of the arrears. Housing units are to be chosen within HUD-approved areas and must meet the set quality and safety standards. More information is available at https://thda.org/help-for-renters-section-8/housing-choice-voucher-program.
Home Repair Assistance for Seniors
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis offers home modification support to seniors to allow them to age in place in their own homes. Read more at https://www.memphishabitat.com/.
Westchester Home Connection offers home repair support to seniors in West, Middle, and East Tennessee. The organization only focuses on critical home repairs. Read more at http://www.westminsterhomeconnection.org/.
Low-income older adults may qualify for home improvement grants through USDA Rural Development. The Department runs the Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants program that provides up to $10,000 grants to senior homeowners. These grants should be used to remove health and safety hazards from seniors’ homes to enable them to age in place. To qualify for these grants, older adults must provide proof of home ownership and that they occupy the property. They must demonstrate the need for assistance by meeting the low-income limits in Tennessee. Seniors must be at least 62 years and not able to acquire credits from other sources. Home repair grants are not refunded unless the older homeowner sells or changes property ownership within three years of receiving the financial assistance. Find out more at https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-programs/single-family-housing-repair-loans-grants/tn.
Food Assistance for Seniors
Tennessee provides food support to the elderly through programs and services:
Aging Nutrition Program: The purpose of this program is to assist with meals and access to grocery stores for seniors, their loved ones, or caregivers. The local Area Agencies on Aging administer the program throughout the state, and one needs to contact them at 1-866-836-6678. The program offers free meals, nutrition education, and counseling services, and creates socialization opportunities for seniors aged at least 60.
- Congregate Meals Program: There are more than 200 settings for these services in Tennessee. Search for a nearer meal site at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/nutrition-services/congregate-meal-sites.html. Meal services are available throughout the week, except on weekends and holidays. Anyone who meets the age limits and their spouses can have access to free meals at the sites.
- Home-Delivered Meals/Meals on Wheels: Homebound older adults due to a disability or a health condition will have these services delivered to them at their homes. The goal of the program is to provide nutritionally balanced home-delivered meals to home-bound older adults. There are caseworkers dedicated to conducting a home assessment to identify older adults who qualify for home-delivered meals.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): SNAP has specialized eligibility criteria for seniors who need assistance with food. SNAP runs an outreach service that is meant to educate older adults on the program’s available benefits and the need for adapting healthy eating practices. The goal is to help in bridging the gap in nutrition needs among senior Tennesseans. There are coordinators assigned in different regions throughout the state to help older adults understand the process and benefits.
More information is available at https://www.tn.gov/aging/our-programs/nutrition-services.html.
Help Paying Bills
Tennessee Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP is a federally-funded program designed to help senior low-income Tennesseans and those living with disabilities pay their energy bills. The Federal Department of Health and Human Services administers the program at the national level. The program services are available in all the state’s 95 counties, and eligibility is based on income level and assets. LIHEAP involves a special program only available in summer that exclusively provides support grants of up to $325 to help with heating costs. The program aims to protect the elderly and seniors with disabilities from the harsh summer heat that could affect their bodies and health status. The regular heating assistance provides up to $250 grants to eligible seniors. Only senior residents of Tennessee who demonstrates the need for financial support are considered for assistance. Visit https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1577 for more information.
Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP): The purpose of LIHWAP is to provide financial support to low-income seniors to help with their water and wastewater bills. LIHWAP does not offer grants directly to eligible older adults. The funds are distributed to the states who then allocate them to the local agencies who then ensure the services reach the elderly residents in need. Note that LIHWAP does not charge any fee to provide support, and it is important to report if requested a fee to receive the program grant funding. Contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Fraud Hotline at 1-800-447-8477. More information is available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/lihwap.
Transportation Assistance for Seniors
Accessing food, health care services, social opportunities, and going shopping can be difficult if older adults can’t afford transportation. Transportation is important, as it helps seniors remain independent. Fortunately, the public transportation system in Tennessee is efficient and is available in all 95 counties. While public transportation is always free or at discounted costs for seniors, most of the older adults’ transportation needs are personalized.
MyRide Tennessee is a sustainable volunteer transportation program committed to helping seniors with transportation services. The program involves volunteer drivers who help seniors get home safely using their vehicles. The service helps older adults get to medical appointments, and shop from grocery stores. The program only operates on Mondays through Fridays. More details about the transportation service are available at https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/aging/our-programs/transportation-assistance/myride-tn.html.
Assistance for Senior Veterans
VA benefits for the elderly Tennesseans include disability compensation, education and training, home loans, insurance, pension, and healthcare services. There is an additional benefit given to senior veterans.
Aid and Attendance (A&A) is a program focused on providing increased monthly pension given to seniors who meet one of these conditions:
- A resident of a nursing home care facility.
- Have vision problems.
- In need of assistance with ADLs.
Homebound is focused on increased monthly pensions given to senior veterans confined in their homes due to permanent disabilities. Visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/persona/veteran-elderly.asp for more details.
Assistance from Charities and Nonprofits
The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee: The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is a charitable organization committed to offering support services aimed at improving the quality of life among seniors. The organization works through the Serving Tennessee Seniors Program, funded by the Chancery Court. The organization distributes funds to nonprofits dedicated to addressing the most pressing needs of older adults. The goal of this program is to address the issues of underfunding and the unrecognition of the needs of the vulnerable aging population. More information is available at https://www.servingtennesseeseniors.org/.
Catholic Charities Diocese of Nashville – Refugee Elders Program: The purpose of the Refugee Elders Program is to offer assistance services to enable seniors to adjust to life in the United States. The program focuses greatly on seniors’ health and wellness in their services, which are available only three days a week. Through the program, the elderly persons can be taken to field trips, physical exercise, arts, and games that promote socialization and self-sufficiency. The organization works in collaboration with the Healing Trust, Dollar General Literacy Foundation, and the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. Please note that these services are only available to senior residents of Nashville. Visit https://cctenn.org/causes/new-americans/elders-program/ for more information.
West End Home Foundation: West End Home Foundation is committed to serving older adults by funding nonprofits offering support services and resources to the elderly. The organization focus on supporting programs that address the needs of the aging population. Find out more at https://www.westendhomefoundation.org/community-impact/.
United Way of Greater Knoxville: Knoxville is home to about 92,000 older adults, and at least one out of four of them live on their own. 22% of seniors are veterans, while 29% have less than $20,000 annual income. These numbers show the need to support the elderly in their journey to aging strong and healthy while striving to achieve self-sufficiency. The goal of the United Way of Greater Knoxville works to reduce the number of senior low-income earners. The organization partners with the local agencies and programs offering care services to older adults in need. The organization provides its services by raising funds and offering assistance to support programs serving the needs of seniors. Some of the organizations they partner with are Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service, Inc., and Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. More information is available at https://www.uwgk.org/senior-care/.