Senior citizens and elderly Americans face plenty of challenges when it comes to deteriorating health and aging. Caring for seniors isn’t just a familial responsibility, but a priority for the state government as well. While federal programs are in place to assist older Americans, many state initiatives also exist to protect the health, rights, safety, and legal interests of senior citizens.
Driving & Transit
Renewing your license can be stressful, to say the least. The State of Illinois has made it easier for seniors to renew driver licenses and refresh the rules of the road in a program called Super Seniors and, aptly, Rules of the Road. The Illinois Super Seniors program takes the DMV on the road to libraries, senior centers, and local park districts to make the renewal process as easy as possible; seniors can take vision tests and renew licenses and ID cards at these sites. Older Illinois drivers must renew their licenses every 4 years between the ages of 69-80, every 2 years between ages 80-86; drivers aged 75+ years must also pass a road test. To prepare for the road test (not offered at Super Senior sites at this time) and written exam, seniors may enroll in the 2-hour Rules of the Road course, offered free of charge, which provides participants with practice questions and road sign identification.
For seniors who are unable to drive, but who would like to retain an identification card, the State of Illinois offers free ID cards, which never expire, for persons aged 65 or older. ID cards are available at Super Seniors sites; find a local site and learn more about these programs here.
Additionally, reduced-fee license plates are available to seniors under the Benefit Access program; you can file an application for this subsidy online. Along with reduced-fee license plates, the Benefit Access program allows for other transit benefits, including free rides on fixed routes operated by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Download an application or find a registration site here to apply in-person.
Health & Insurance
Health insurance needs can be complicated for older Americans. The State of Illinois provides free counseling to navigate long term care, Medicare, and supplemental insurance for seniors in a program called SHIP (Senior Health Insurance Program). With a SHIP-trained counselor, seniors can have their policies analyzed, receive assistance in filing claims, and learn about options for supplemental assistance like private long term care insurance. Find counselors in your county and schedule a meeting here.
In addition to insurance assistance, Illinois provides a state-sponsored program aimed to protect the rights of those receiving long term care at a facility or even in their own homes. The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) primarily exists to protect residents of long term and nursing care facilities safe from abuse and neglect, but also provides a safe haven for seniors to lodge complaints of mistreatment at community and day care centers. Seniors receiving home or managed care may also contact their regional ombudsman to confidentially report a problem or lodge a complaint. In addition to reporting mistreatment, the program is able to provide recommendations and referrals for long term care facilities, managed care, and medical coverage.
For Illinoisans over the age of 60, legal advice and representation is available through the Legal Services Developer as part of the Department of Aging. Legal assistance is available for seniors requiring an advocate in areas including elder abuse and neglect cases, financial exploitation or fraud, tenant/landlord disputes, or conflicts over benefits (Medicare, Social Security, pension, etc). Along with assistance in handling legal action, these attorneys can also assist the elderly in simple estate planning, living wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives. Also available are educational programs to help you understand your legal rights in a range of areas and relevant topics, including Adult Protective Services and elder rights. To get legal assistance, as well as to learn about the many programs available to seniors, find an Area Agency on Aging serving your county.