Aid for ageing: Common rights and resources

Ruth Healy

While growing old has its downsides, with fragile hips or loss of hearing, it also has its rewards. Wisdom and experience being chief amongst them with smaller benefits like the occasional offering of a seat on public transport. There's also an entire range of common rights and resources available to older people that often go untapped. Yet due to either unawareness or confusion around how to apply, older people frequently go without the benefits they deserve and are entitled to.

That said, it's not always the older person - many caregivers are unaware of the resources at their disposal. To assist, we're sharing an overview of the significant areas where older people and their caregivers can benefit, with a few examples of each.


Financial aid and entitlements

For older people:

Financial aid can take a range of different forms. It may be a simple cash allowance that you're entitled to upon reaching a certain age, a discount when purchasing equipment, or financial assistance to a caregiver.

In the US, social security will cover some of a person’s monthly living expenses. However, it will not cover all expenditure; being intended to supplement retirement income, not replace it. There are several different forms of social security:

Supplemental security income: For seniors 65 and over with disabilities and limited resources.

Social security disability insurance: For people with a disability who previously worked a job covered by social security.

Survivor benefits: For widow(er)s of a worker who died.

There are also housing programs, such as those that modify homes energy efficiency to reduce energy costs. Meanwhile, Medicare is designed to subsidize senior’s healthcare.

In Australia and much of Europe, old-age pensions are provided to older people who meet specific criteria related to income. The UK pays a State Pension to all citizens over a certain age, as long as they have paid or been credited with National Insurance contributions. Australia also runs a Pensions Loans Scheme, to help supplement retirement income with a non-taxable loan.

For caregivers:

Caring for an older person comes with certain costs. According to a 2016 AARP study, the average caregiver spends $6,954 on caregiving (around 20 per cent of their annual income). Therefore, throughout the world, financial aid and entitlements are available.

Medicaid will provide some financial help in the US, for very low-income older people. Fifteen states run ‘Cash & Counselling’ programs which provide an allowance to family caregivers and can be applied if they don't qualify for Medicaid. There are also tax incentives, whereby caregivers younger than 65 may deduct medical expenses and mileage, greater than 10 per cent of their adjusted gross income.

In contrast, the UK provides a specific Carer’s Allowance to help with those who spend at least thirty-five hours per week caring for a disabled person. Local councils also assess a carer for a ‘carer’s personal

budget’ which can provide some financial assistance. A similar system exists in Australia and Ireland; however, the eligibility criteria can differ.

Ireland also provides Carer’s Leave, whereby a person can take up to two years leave from work to provide full-time care. Furthermore, people who don't qualify for Carer's Benefit may be eligible for Carer's Allowance.


Support outlets and community resources

Alongside financial assistance, there is also a range of community resource and support outlets that older people and their carers can use.

Governmental programs: These often focus on providing a specific service, for instance, providing a carer to look after a person, or respite services.

Community centres: Often run social and recreational activities for older people to enjoy. These may be specific events such as pottery or flower arranging and can even include day trips.

Charities: There are dozens, if not hundreds of charities working for the betterment of older people. These provide day centres, training courses, exercise classes, and home help for older people in their community.

Government programs:

Home Support Service (HRE) in Ireland is a free service that helps older people stay at home for as long as possible. It provides support with everyday activities such as getting dressed or showering. Similar systems exist in the UK and many EU countries. For US residents, older people and caregivers frequently receive support through their state. Head over to your local state’s Department of Ageing website for further details.

Charities:

Meanwhile, charities, such as Age UK often provide a remarkable range of services. They have cafes and restaurants for older people to enjoy a meal or cup of tea – often providing a break for their carer. Handy-person services and Home Help assist older people with specific jobs around their homes. While day centres give older people a chance to socialise with people of the same age, improving their quality of life.

Carers UK works specifically with carers to provide them with the support they need. They have a helpline for people to call for expert advice, information, and support. They also campaign on behalf of carers for better rights and services.

Community centres:

In the US, senior citizen centres cater to all older people, regardless of need: they are the hub of senior activities. There are more than 10,000 centres across the US, providing regular activities and social events. These can include exercise classes, or courses for skills and hobbies, such as Tai Chi, computer classes, or book clubs. There also regular day trips to the theatre, the movies, as well as travel opportunities. You can even get a meal for free if you are in need.

Local non-profit organisations run most senior centres; however, some do receive government support. Seniors who attend such centres, typically do so for a few hours at a time, two to three times a week. They are open to everyone fifty or older.

Similar services are also available in other countries, albeit in a less formalised fashion. Speaking to your local elderly charity, doctor, or council can provide further insight into the community resources available.

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