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5 Programs for Older Adults That Count on the Census

The bureau's data help determine funding levels

spinner image An older woman buys produce from a market
An older woman buys produce as part of the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
Nature and Science / Alamy Stock Photo

The numbers from the 2020 census will help determine how — and where — billions of dollars in federal funding get spent each year for the next decade. Many government programs that help older adults receive at least part of their money through formulas based on the census count. Whether you're older yourself or you have loved ones who are older, it's critical to make sure everyone in every household gets counted.

Medicare is one of the most well-known federal programs for older Americans that relies on census data to help determine funding or the eligibility of people to participate. Here are five smaller ones:

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1. Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)

This job-training and employment program helps people age 55 and older get back into the workforce after they have been unemployed. AARP Foundation is one nonprofit organization that uses SCSEP funding to help people find jobs. “I knew that I wanted to do something that would be beneficial to other people, and I knew that I had something to offer,” says Darlena Gainer, a former retiree who found work at the Trinity Café food kitchen in Tampa, Florida, through AARP Foundation's program.

2. Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP)

Fresh vegetables and fruits are important parts of a healthy diet at any age, but they aren't always affordable. Each year, SFMNP provides 800,000 people age 60 and older from low-income households with a small stipend to buy locally grown produce. Participants get to eat a little healthier while also supporting nearby farmers and farmers markets.

3. Senior Corps

Senior Corps offers volunteer programs that provide people age 55 and older ways to give back to their communities while also staying active. The Foster Grandparent Program places older adults in neighborhood public schools, where they can help kids learn to read, provide tutoring or offer other assistance to help the next generation of Americans grow. On the other side of the age spectrum, volunteers in the Senior Companion Program get to work with elderly adults, offering support that helps them continue to live independently in their homes. More than 220,000 volunteers participate in Senior Corps each year, receiving a small stipend for their time and effort.

4. Enhanced Mobility of Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities

Public transportation options sometimes don't quite fit the needs of older adults and people with disabilities. This program, run by the U.S. Department of Transportation, fills the gaps by providing money that helps communities meet the special needs of these groups, such as wheelchair lifts, ramps or vans that can pick up individuals who may not be able to walk to a bus stop or train station.

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5. Supportive Housing for the Elderly

This program out of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helps communities offer living options for low-income adults who need some assistance with daily activities — cooking and transportation, for example. The money goes to local governments, which use it to buy, build or renovate housing options that can meet the needs of these elderly adults.

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