Season of receiving: Use free services to stay independent

Nurse or female volunteer delivers groceries to a senior adult woman at her home. The Latin descent woman carries a grocery bag full of fresh fruits and vegetables to the mature woman who is unable to leave her home due to illness. The woman is grateful for the delivery.

The holidays are a time of giving, but they’re also a time to put yourself on the receiving list and assess whether you should be taking advantage of free health-related services offered by nonprofit organizations. Services are widely available, often regardless of income. But you might not know they exist. “Most older adults aren’t introduced to support services until they’re hospitalized or they work with a case manager or social worker,” explains Barbara Moscowitz, a geriatric social worker at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. “You don’t have to wait for such an event.”

What’s available

On the local level, you can often find free or low-cost dental clinics, emotional support groups, meal or grocery delivery services, transportation, in-home health evaluations, exercise classes, health education classes, home evaluations for fall prevention, companion programs, caregiver respite services, or programs to help you navigate difficult chronic health conditions and their treatment.

On the state or national level, there are nonprofits that provide older adults with free or low-cost prescription medications, hearing aids, and gently used home medical equipment.

Help that makes a difference

Using nonprofit services can help you stay healthy and independent or cope with chronic disease. For example:

Shepherd’s Centers of America, a network of nonprofit senior centers across the country, offers free rides to homebound older adults. “If you can’t get out of the house, you’re not socializing, going to the grocery store or doctor appointments, or staying healthy,” says Michelle Scott, director of the Oakton-Vienna, Va., affiliate.

Meals on Wheels delivers nutritious meals to older adults. In addition, in some communities, such as La Jolla, Calif. (, the group also sends vetted volunteers to older adults’ homes each week (for free), providing social contact that’s crucial to warding off isolation and maintaining health.

Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s in Sarasota, Fla. (, helps people figure out which steps to take after a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

“Many people don’t know where to turn. We match them with resources that suit their individual needs, whether it’s exercise, therapeutic or emotional support, or education,” says Robyn Faucy-Washington, the group’s executive director.

Handy links to helpful groups



Hearing aid assistance

Gently used home medical equipment

Prescription medication assistance

Exercise classes and gym access

Where to find services

Sometimes the hardest part about accessing services is finding those that are right for you. Start by asking for referrals at your doctor’s office, local senior centers, and your region’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA) — part of a network of more than 600 agencies that receive federal funding to coordinate older adult support services and provide referrals to them.

Your county or state government can connect you to your AAA or you can check the national website ( Or use the federal government’s Eldercare Locator (

Accessing services

Services may be free or offered at a low cost, based on your income. Don’t assume you aren’t eligible. This keeps many people from accessing services, notes Moscowitz. “And many people are uncomfortable asking for help,” she says. Get the ball rolling with a phone call. Talk to an agency yourself, or have a loved one call on your behalf. You may need to visit a nonprofit group for an assessment, or a representative may come to you. But make the effort. It will be worth it when the services improve your health and quality of life.

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

1 Corinthians 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing.

Love suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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