Help, Hacks, and Hints for Seniors

Researched and written by Know A Vet?.

Many “seasoned citizens” have already retired.

Some are enjoying the hobbies and things they dreamed of doing when raising their family and building careers. Others have begun second and third acts, perhaps as volunteers or entrepreneurs.

Some are suffering with declining health or low income. They may need help. Here we provide information on different types of help for a variety of concerns to seniors and their families.



As people retire, their income declines. They begin living off savings, investments, and Social Security income.  Increases in housing costs, health care, and food prices, coupled with decreases in income, can lead to financial problems. These 3 organizations offer sources of help.

  • National Council on Aging (NCOA)
    NCOAhas a free service called Benefits Checkup. This service generates a report on the financial help available by area. Enter a zip code and answer 8 questions to find help in an area. This service accesses over 2,500 federal, private, and state benefit programs that help seniors pay for food, medicine, and more.

  • Need Help Paying Bills
    This site helps people find a range of help for a variety of situations, including financial help. The Seniors Assistance page has information on federal and state government programs, Area Agency on Aging, charities and social service organizations. The type of help available varies by location and agency. Helpavailable to low-income seniors and the elderly include:

    • financial help
    • government benefit programs
    • Medicare and health insurance help
    • home care and food programs
    • grants for paying for medications or other bills
  • H.E.L.P
    H.E.L.P is a free resource for seniors and their families to help them make informed decisions. This includes help navigating the maze of government programs available to seniors. Their Government Benefits for Seniors guide offers information on monthly income programs and health and care programs, including:

      • Social Security Retirement (SSR)
      • Social Security Disability (SSD)
      • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
      • Nursing Home Medi-Cal
      • In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS)
      • Veterans Aid & Attendance Pension (A&A)



Over 810,000 older Veterans live below the federal poverty level. An additional half million Surviving Spouses are estimated to be living in poverty. Many of these Veterans and Surviving Spouses are unaware they may be eligible for financial and other benefits, earned because of military service. Benefits can make a large difference in quality of life by increasing income and supplying other help. Examples of such benefits from Veterans Administration (VA) include:

Survivors Pension
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
Aid & Attendance
Geriatrics and Extended Care

Navigating VA can be overwhelming, but help is available for exploring possible benefit eligibility.

  • Veteran Service Offices (VSOs)
    Know A Vet? believes that a Veteran Service Office is the best first step to getting help. VSO services are free. Personnel are trained and certified. They work with you where you are, to find all the benefits you earned, regardless of which service, when, and where. They know the catch phrases VA looks for.  They file your claim for you.

          To learn more about VSOs, and to find one near you, visit Know A Vet’s FIND Local Help page. Most VSOs also know of more help available from local governments and non-profits.

  • Know A Vet? (KAV) Champions
    If you need help getting started, consider contacting a KAV Champion. This service is free. Champions help you understand options and setting your own priorities. Champions don’t act as medical, legal or financial experts but they will help you find a path forward.



Assistive Technology and Devices
A range of technologies can help seniors in being safe, healthy, and living their best lives. They bring a variety of benefits, including helping seniors stay in their own home, enhancing convenience, and raising quality of life. Three examples of assistive technology are:

  • Assisted Vision Devices
    Innovative devices that use advanced technology can help people with certain vision problems read text, see faces, and better experience their world.  This article from AARP describes 4 such devices. It indicates which ones Veterans Administration may cover for eligible Veterans. An example is ‘OrCam’, a wireless smart camera that attaches to the arm of eyeglasses and tells the wearer what it sees via a tiny speaker. Orcam says “If you have VA health coverage and are low vision or legally blind then you may qualify to receive an OrCam device, fully covered for by the VA.” Learn more on the Orcam site.


          This article from AARP discusses smartphone apps, electronic readers and other tools. An example is ‘WayAround’. When a phone with this app is placed on a tag or label, the app reads the information out loud. Learn more at the WayAround site.

  • Medical Alert Systems
    Medical Alert Systems are wearable devices that allow the wearer to get help if they fall or have another medical emergency and no one is there to help. Different types of systems are available. There are in-home devices with coverage radius usually limited to the wearer’s house and yard. There are mobile devices based on cell phone technology that provide broad coverage range. There are even Smart-watch style devices.

          Veterans Administration (VA) may cover the cost of medical alert systems for qualifying Veterans. For system information and to see who is eligible, refer to Free Medical Alert Systems for Veterans from It also reports other options for getting a free or low-cost device.

          For more information on medical alert systems see A Guide to Medical Alert Systems from industry expert

  • Voice Command Virtual Assistants
    Voice command virtual assistants work through ‘smart speakers’. A smart speaker has a built-in microphone that receives spoken input and puts out an audible response. These virtual assistants perform tasks when told to. These tasks can help:

        • save time and energy
        • relieve isolation and loneliness
        • entertain
        • make home life safer and easier

         Popular smart speaker/voice command virtual assistants include:
                        Echo (Amazon)
                                 Echo is a smart speaker equipped with Amazon’s virtual personal assistant technology called Alexa. Alexa can perform many tasks, including:

        • movies and videos
        • remind to take medication or of an appointment
        • alert one or more pre-defined contacts that you need help (Alert a Buddy)
        • allow pre-defined visitors to ‘drop in’ for a virtual wellness check (Drop In feature)
        • set a timer
        • play music or an audio book
        • report the latest news, weather forecast or sports scores
        • check traffic
        • make lists
        • tell a joke
        • control ‘smart devices’ like thermostats, light switches, electrical outlets, and more
        • order groceries

                                 Echo is available in a variety of formats. All come with Alexa technology built in. Some formats are speaker only. Echo Show is a speaker plus display screen. The screen can display or show various things, like:

        • time, weather, news, and photographs
        • movies and videos
        • the person ‘dropping in’ via the Echo Drop In feature
        • and more.

Read personal stories here about how some people use Echo and Alexa in their lives.

                 HomePod mini (Apple)
                          HomePod mini is a smart speaker equipped with Apple’s virtual assistant called Siri. Siri performs tasks to similar to Alexa. Learn more on the Apple HomePOD mini site.

                 Nest Hub (Google)
                         Nest Hub is a smart speaker equipped with Google’s virtual assistant called Google Assistant. Google Assistant performs tasks similar to Alexa. Learn more on the Google Nest Hub site.

Hacks & Tips
As people age, they are often not as flexible. Arthritis can make certain tasks difficult. Other physical challenges affect the ease with which daily tasks are done. But people are creative when it comes to making daily tasks easier. The use of “hacks” (using common objects in unexpected ways) can help with everyday living.  From using a broom to clean the bathtub or pliers to open pull-top cans

, new uses for common household items help get the job done. Explore these articles for a range of hacks and tips to help daily living.


For more information for seniors visit the Know A Vet? Seniors Topics and Aging pages. Find information for all Veterans on our Self-Help page.

Article Sources

AARP (n.d.). Tips, Hacks and Time Savers for Caregivers. Retrieved May 12, 2022, from

Ahmed, Asif. (2019, August 20).  Everything You Can Do With The Amazon Echo Dot. SmartHome.

Amazon. (n.d.). From Our Customers. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from 

Barbalich, Andrea. (2019, January 7). High Tech Innovations for Low Vision. AARP.

Best of Life Magazine. (2021, June 8). 100 Things to Try With the Amazon Echo Show.

Bowling, Andrea. (2020, October 14). Battle of Things. Know A Vet?

Brenoff, Ann. (2015, January 26). 25 Life Hacks Anyone Over 50 Should Know. Huffpost.

Caring.Com. (n.d.). What is a Medical Alert System? Retrieved May 12, 2022, from

Gil, Lory. (2017, June 28). Amazon Echo Show: Everything you need to know! iMore.

Kane, Esther. (n.d.). Echo Show Drop In Skill For The Elderly. Senior Safety Advice.

Know A Vet? (n.d.). Get Personal Help. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from

Medical Alert. (n.d.). Dedicated to the Improving of the Lives of Older Adults Through Assistive Technology. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from

Medical Alert. (n.d.). Does VA Pay for Medical Alert Systems? Retrieved May 12, 2022, from

National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Older Adults. NCOA. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from

PBS News Hour. (2013, August 19). 19 More Life Hacks to Keep You Out of the Nursing Home. PBS.

Saltzman, Marc. (2019, October 11). What is a Smart Speaker? AARP.

Schroeder, Natalie. (202, November 14). Financial Help for Seniors. Know A Vet?

Senior Living. (n.d.).  3 Reasons Seniors Need Voice Command Devices. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from

Silva, Robert. (2021, July 11). What is a Smart Speaker? Lifewire.

Stepko, Barbara. (2021, February 18). Fantastic New Tech for People With Low Vision or Blindness. AARP.

United States Census Bureau. Age by Veteran Status by Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months by Disability. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from


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