Healthy Living Tips for Seniors on a Fixed Income

Please check out this fantastic article, written by Karen Weeks, which is full of tips on how to live healthy and strong as a senior on a fixed income!

by Karen Weeks –

Image by Xevi Casanovas via Unsplash

As you get older, it’s more important than ever to make your health a priority. Unfortunately for seniors living on fixed incomes, a healthy lifestyle can seem financially impossible. Nutritious ingredients, fitness classes, and other healthy living resources don’t come cheap. When money is limited, it’s hard to find room in your budget.

Forgoing healthy habits may save money in the short-term, but it costs seniors in the long-run. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to develop health problems that are costly to manage.

That’s why it’s so important to adopt healthy habits now, no matter your budget. If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, these tips will help you stay healthy without spending a lot.

Eating Well

Learn how to grocery shop on a budget
If you look at the price of packaged organic goods, healthy foods can seem out of reach. Instead of worrying about organics, focus on eating a diet high in vegetables of any (and every!) type. If fresh vegetables are too expensive, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious without the sodium content of canned goods. Dried beans, whole grains, frozen fruit, canned fish, and eggs are more cheap and healthy foods. Avoid frozen meals. While they seem like a good value, most frozen dinners are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Make use of food assistance programs
If you find yourself skipping meals or eating poorly to save money, look into food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is an especially helpful resource if you live alone and have trouble leaving your home.

Staying Active

Get cleared for exercise
It’s safe for most older adults to exercise, but it’s still wise to talk to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to ask if you should take precautions before starting an exercise program. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare’s annual wellness visit doesn’t include a full physical. You may owe a copay if your doctor recommends bloodwork or other tests to clear you for exercise.

Exercise at home
There’s a lot of exercise seniors can do in the comfort of their homes. Basic strength and balance exercises, important for senior fall prevention, require minimal space and no special equipment. Use these 14 exercises from Philips Lifeline to get started.

Join a senior center
Do you prefer the camaraderie of group exercise? Senior centers offer tons of activities for older adults, including exercise classes like tai chi, yoga, and Zumba. Not only that, but all of a senior center’s services are available free or low-cost. No matter where you live, there’s likely a senior center in your neighborhood.

Getting Help at Home

Apply for the Assisted Living Waiver Program
If you need caregiving but don’t want to move into a nursing facility, consider assisted living. Under the Assisted Living Waiver Program, California seniors receiving Medi-Cal benefits can receive a reduced rate for assisted living. With facilities in California having a median cost of $54,000 annually, that’s a valuable benefit. However, not all facilities participate, so it’s important that seniors understand how to research assisted living facilities. Online search tools are a good place to start looking for a facility that meets your needs, but once you find one you like, you’ll need to check if it participates in the waiver program.

Get a roommate
Unfortunately, not every senior who needs help affording care qualifies for a waiver. If you could use help at home but don’t need nursing home-level care, consider a roommate. A roommate can be a housemate who splits the bills or someone who provides housekeeping and companionship in exchange for reduced rent.

Living on a fixed income forces you to get creative with your money, but it shouldn’t stop you from living well. If you’re having trouble affording the things you need to stay healthy, reach out to your Department of Aging and Adult Services to learn what resources are available to you.

Tips on Healthy Grocery Shopping

Grocery stores are designed to tempt shoppers to make impulse purchases.  Such impulse buys can be especially tempting if you are ravenous with hunger when you shop.  Here are some guidelines which will help you to make healthy food choices when perusing a traditional grocery store.

1.    Shop around the perimeter of the store – Most processed foods are found in the aisles of a regular grocery store, while whole foods like fresh produce and meats are found around the perimeter.

2.    Read food labels – Be aware of hidden sugar, sodium, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives.

3.    Keep purchases of packaged foods to a minimum – Beware of foods which are packaged in boxes, bags, or cans, as these foods tend to be filled with preservatives.

4.    Prepare a shopping list and stick to it – Making a list will ensure that you do not forget any necessary items and will also help prevent impulse purchases if you adhere strictly to the items which are on your list.

5.    Eat a meal before you shop – If you shop for groceries when you are satiated, you will be less likely to make impulsive purchases or buy more than what you need.

6.    Fill your cart with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts and beans. 

7.    Try a new fruit or vegetable each week – This will add variety to your meal plan.

8.    Spend the most time during your shopping trip in the produce section.

9.    When choosing whole grain cereals, aim for at least 4 grams of fiber per serving – Make sure the sugar content is minimal.

10.  Choose lean cuts of meat – Good beef cuts are round, top sirloin and tenderloin.  When buying poultry, purchase the skinless variety.

11.  Choose frozen fruits and vegetables over the canned variety.

12.  Avoid food items that contain more than five ingredients, artificial ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce. 

13.  Be careful when choosing bread – Many refined breads are dark from added molasses, caramel or other coloring.   Look for breads which contain 100% whole wheat or other grain as their first ingredient.  Try to avoid enriched wheat flour as it is actually made with processed white flour.  Make sure the bread you select has at least 2 grams of fiber per slice.

14.  Select fish which is high in omega-3 fatty acids – Best selections are salmon, rainbow trout, lake trout, and tuna.


  • Anchovies
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab
  • Crawfish
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mullet
  • Oyster
  • Perch
  • Pollock
  • Salmon
  • Sardine
  • Scallop
  • Shrimp
  • Sole
  • Squid
  • Tilapia
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

15.  Choose strong-flavor chesses – Sharp cheddar, feta and Parmesan have strong flavors which means you will need to use less to flavor your foods.

16.  Purchase Greek yogurt – Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier than other varieties, and the protein content is much higher.  My favorite is Fage Total 0-Percent Greek Yogurt.

17.  If you must buy frozen entrees, make sure they contain less than 400 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 600 milligrams of sodium, with at least 14 grams of protein and 2 grams of carbohydrate.

18.  Add vegetables and/or cooked brown rice or quinoa to your frozen entrée to increase the size and nutrition level of the meal.

19.  Add frozen fruit to cooked oatmeal to provide sweetness without added sugar.

20.  Eat oatmeal – Make sure to buy regular oatmeal, not the instant variety.