Written by: Amie Clark
Updated on: September 23, 2020
We are more than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and many in the US are struggling financially. Whether a job loss has impacted you, or simply need to keep costs down in retirement, it pays to know all of the ways you can be saving money or enjoying experiences at a discount. Here is a guide to assistance for basic services, as well as options for enjoying restaurants, recreation, and entertainment for a discounted price, or for free.
Table of Contents
- Food Assistance, Restaurants, and Grocery Stores
- Retail and Other Discounts
City-specific COVID assistance
Cities across the country have rolled out programs designed to offer relief during the pandemic. Most are also promising not to cut off services during this time. For example, Seattle is offering to defer payments for those affected financially by COVID, and anyone with low income can apply for their Utility Discount Program. Nashville Electric Service will not charge late fees, and those who cannot afford their bill can get assistance through Project Help. Check with your utility to see what assistance is available to you.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program
This federally funded program assists with energy bills and energy-related home repairs for low-income renters and homeowners. See the Energy Assistance section of our detailed list of resources for seniors.
Many people who have lost their jobs during this pandemic are unable to pay their rent. There are protections to prevent evictions for non-payment, and cities are setting up relief funds to help those who cannot pay. To find out more about what your state offers, check here.
Medicare and all major health plans have waived costs for COVID testing, and most cities offer free testing for those who have symptoms or have been exposed
- Part D Extra Help – help with Medicare prescription costs worth about $5,000 per year
- State Prescription Assistance Program (SPAP) – available in 20 states
- Patient Assistance Programs – drug company support for consumers
- Drug Charity Programs – typically for those with a chronic condition or a rare disease
Telehealth has become an important way for seniors to safely be seen by a doctor during the pandemic. Medicare has issued waivers to allow for coverage of telehealth appointments, and HSA plans will temporarily cover telehealth visits and other remote care.
- Meals on wheels – a federally supported program, meals on wheels focuses specifically on the nutritional needs of seniors and helping them live independently. Volunteers not only deliver meals but also help combat isolation and loneliness which are particularly problematic during a pandemic. Check here for programs in your area.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Going by various names depending on location, SNAP provides seniors an electronic card to buy nutritious food. The average SNAP benefit for a senior living alone is $108 per month. Less than half of seniors who qualify are currently enrolled so find out here if you are eligible.
- Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) – SFMNP gives low-income seniors coupons for the purchase of fresh food from farmers’ markets.
- Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) – Now available in all states, CSFP provides healthy food packages designed to supplement the diet of seniors.
Not just for AARP members, many restaurants offer discounts and freebies for all seniors and some start at age 50 and they all apply to takeout and pickup. Here are 20 dining spots with locations across the United States. Chances are, your local restaurant will have a discount if you ask.
- Applebee’s: Golden Apple Card program discounts range from 10 to 15 percent
- Bonefish Grill: AARP discount of 10 percent
- Boston Market: Most locations offer a discount to customers over 65
- Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.: AARP discount of 10 percent
- Burger King: 10 percent off and additional discounts on coffee and soft drinks
- Chili’s: 10 percent discount for customers 55 and over
- Dairy Queen: 10 percent discount, some also offer free small drinks to 55 and over
- Denny’s: AARP discount of 10 percent
- Einstein Bros. Bagels: 60 and over receive 10 percent off a baker’s dozen of bagels
- IHOP: Offer a 55+ menu with discounted prices
- KFC: 5 to 10 percent discount; some offer a free small drink with meal purchase
- Krispy Kreme: 10 percent off to customers over 50, but varies by location
- McCormick & Schmick’s: AARP discount of 10 percent
- McDonald’s: Offer discounted beverages or free coffee
- Outback Steakhouse: AARP discount of 10 percent
- Sonic: 10 percent discount or complimentary soft drink to 60 and older
- Steak ‘n Shake: 10 percent discount to diners over 50
- Taco Bell: 65 and older receive 5 percent off their meal and a free soft drink
- TCBY: 10 percent discount to customers 55 and over
- White Castle: 62 and over can get sliders, fries, and more at 10 percent off
Most grocery store chains have implemented senior shopping hours, letting seniors shop the store before everyone else, at least on certain days. Depending on where you shop you may also be able to get discounts on your groceries. Several grocery store chains offer senior discounts of 5% or 10% on select days.
Retail and Other Discounts
There are thousands of locations in the United States with some form of discount or savings for seniors. See our current list of year-round senior discounts.
National Parks Pass – With COVID making long-distance travel unsafe and canceling most indoor activities, Americans have taken to outdoor recreation. National parks have seen their visitor numbers soar, and seniors can get a lifetime pass for just $80 once they turn 62. Those with a permanent disability can receive a free pass.
Virtual Fitness Classes – As gyms closed, a wealth of free online fitness resources became available. Those that focus on senior fitness include Silver Sneakers and the YMCA, but there is a larger variety of virtual programs available now than ever before. The Senior List also offers a variety of free online web classes at this time with subjects ranging from fitness to meditation.
When the pandemic closed museums, canceled events, and caused sports to go spectator-free, organizers had to get creative with virtual experiences. You can now check out a famous museum or live stream a concert for free from the safety of your home. Examples include:
- Take a virtual tour of The Louvre
- Stream a performance of the Metropolitan Opera
- Watch the Monterey Jazz Festival on YouTube Sept 25th.
Online education has become the reality for millions of students during COVID-19. More than a third of seniors recently surveyed prefer an online approach to learning, so now may be a good time to pursue continuing education. Nearly every state has an option for free or greatly reduced tuition for seniors.