NARSVPD is a
in the National Council on Aging’s Senior SNAP Enrollment
Initiative, funded by the Walmart Foundation. Currently 5 RSVP
programs have specific projects to increase older adults
participation in SNAP.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the
largest domestic hunger safety net program. SNAP is especially
important in helping low-income older adults to achieve food
security. But many myths abound–here we set the record straight
with seven facts about seniors and SNAP.
1. Older adults’ participation in SNAP is staggeringly low.
Nationally, about 4.7 million older adults (aged 60+) are
enrolled in SNAP. Yet this figure represents less than half of
the eligible population; approximately
3 out of 5 seniors who qualify to receive SNAP are missing out
estimated 5.2 million people in all.
2. The average SNAP benefit for older adults is $106/month.
While there is a pervasive myth that older adults who qualify
for SNAP only receive $16/month in benefits, this is largely
untrue. The $16 figure is the minimum monthly
benefit a senior can receive—80% of elderly SNAP participants
receive more than the minimum. The average monthly benefit for a
senior living alone in FY16 (the most recent year that data are
available) was $106/month.
Yet many older adults may be able to take advantage of
deductions for other expenses that can increase their monthly
3. Many older adults who qualify for the excess medical
expense deduction don’t use it.
Seniors who spend more than $35 a month on out-of-pocket medical
costs may be able to deduct that from their gross income when
applying for SNAP, thus increasing their monthly benefit amount.
Currently only 16% of older adults utilize the medical expense
deduction, but it is estimated that many more SNAP-eligible
seniors would qualify to use it. To learn more about the
deduction, see our fact sheet SNAPshots:
Maximizing the SNAP Medical Expense Deduction for Older Adults.
4. Isolation is a key factor in the lives of many older adult
Roughly 80% of older adults who receive SNAP benefits live
alone. More than half
of these isolated seniors have little to no income—depending
entirely on general assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
or other benefits for their subsistence. For these individuals,
the $1,272 in average annual SNAP benefits can mean the
difference between having food and going without.
5. SNAP is good for the local economy.
SNAP benefits are spent at community grocery stores and markets,
thereby infusing money into the local economy. An analysis of
the fiscal stimulus measures from USDA’s Economic Research
Service found that additional SNAP benefits created the best
return on investment, with every
$1 in additional SNAP benefits generating $1.79 in local
On a larger scale, it is estimated that an additional $1 billion
in SNAP benefits would generate 8,900 full-time equivalent jobs.
6. Access to SNAP is associated with reduced health care
research on senior debt found
that many older adults with debt make trade-offs that are
potentially dangerous to their health, such as skipping meals
and cutting pills in half. Access to benefits that help pay for
food and health care reduces food insecurity and increase
medication adherence—but the effects may be even bigger than
study of 60,000 low-income Maryland seniors found
that SNAP participants are 23% less likely to enter a nursing
home and 4% less likely to be hospitalized in the year after
receiving SNAP than non-participants. SNAP participation was
also linked to lower overall health care expenditures and
can get all the information needed to help older adults apply
for SNAP in one place.
it easy to find your state’s SNAP program website, application
forms (in multiple languages, where available), and eligibility
criteria. Users can take a simple, quick screening to see if
they potentially qualify. Because 44 states also allow
individuals to apply online for SNAP, there are also links to
the online applications.
If you have seniors in your community that may benefit, please
NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp® website to help seniors see if they’re
eligible for SNAP and apply online.