Programs and Services for Older Adults in Wisconsin

The Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources, Department of Health Services, is a state agency responsible for promoting programs and services for older adults throughout the state.

The following information tells you about the programs and services that are generally available in Wisconsin. Please note not all services are available in every community, and there are waiting lists for some services.

If you would like more information about these and other services for older adults in your area, call your County or Tribal Aging Unit.

There are many programs and services in Wisconsin to help people as they grow older. With the right information and assistance, most older men and women can stay in their own homes indefinitely. The kinds of programs and services offered include:

Adult Protective Services and Elder Abuse

Wisconsin law recognizes material abuse (financial exploitation), physical abuse (including sexual abuse), neglect, and self-neglect as forms of elder abuse. Educating people about elder abuse can lead to prevention. The individual causing the abuse can be a family member, friend, neighbor, or stranger. If the older adult is unable or fails to provide adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical, or dental care, it is considered self-neglect.

If you suspect elder abuse, call your county about filing a report. The situation will be investigated and services will be offered to solve the problem. If you wish, you may report anonymously.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers

Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) are the first place to go with your aging and disability questions. ADRCs are service centers that provide a place for the public to get accurate, unbiased information on all aspects of life related to aging or living with a disability. These centers are friendly, welcoming places anyone can contact to receive information and assistance regarding not only the public benefits that may be available, but all of the programs and service available throughout the area. Individuals, concerned families or friends, or professionals working with issues related to aging, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, mental health issues, or substance use disorders, can receive information specifically tailored to each person's situation.

Benefit Counseling and Assistance

Benefit specialists are available to help older adults and people with disabilities with questions and problems related to benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, FoodShare and health insurance.

Contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit to be referred to your local Benefit Specialist.

Caring for People with Alzheimer's Disease

The Alzheimer's Family Caregiver Support Program responds to the stress and service needs of families caring for someone with an irreversible dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. Counties receive state funds to help individuals purchase services such as care coordination, in-home respite, adult day care, home care, home delivered meals, and equipment such as security systems, lift chair, or specialized clothing. There is information about dementia diagnostic clinics, the Alzheimer's Association chapters, and other long term care programs. Services through this program may vary in each county.

Evidence-Based Health Promotion Programs

What does "Evidence-Based Health Promotion" mean?

Evidence-based health promotion programs are interventions that are based on evidence that is generated by scientific studies. The evidence shows that the program is effective in preventing disease and improving health. These programs have gone through a research process to determine if they show the results that are intended by the program. The program results have also been published in professional scientific journals.

For example: a program that is designed to increase physical activity among it's participants would be evaluated to measure whether or not a significant increase in physical activity actually happens after the participants complete the program.

Living Well with Chronic Conditions (Stanford's Chronic Disease Self-Management Program)
Tomando Control de su Salud (Stanford's Spanish Chronic Disease Self-Management Program)
Stepping On Falls Prevention Program
Powerfull Tools for Caregivers: For a list of all Evidence-Based Health Promotion programs offered in Wisconsin please visit the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging
Injury Prevention-Falls Prevention Program

Family Care and Family Care Partnership

Family Care was designed to provide cost-effective, comprehensive and flexible long-term care that will foster consumers independence and quality of life, while recognizing the need for interdependence and support. The Family Care Partnership program is an integrated health and long-term care program for frail elderly and people with disabilities.

Finding A Job

The Wisconsin Senior Employment Program (WISE) is an employment training program for low-income, unemployed individuals aged 55 years and older. The program provides subsidized, part-time work experience for a limited time through community service to obtain the skills necessary for permanent employment. Participants in the program learn new skills and talents, or enhance existing ones, through valuable work experience and other training to become competitive in today's workforce.

The Senior Employment Program is funded under Title V of the Older Americans Act. It is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services through area agencies on aging and various other non-profit organizations.

To learn more about the Senior Employment program, contact your local  County or Tribal Aging Unit or a Job Center (exit DHS) in your area.

Foster Grandparents

This service connects older adults with children who have special needs. Foster Grandparents are assigned to children in local schools, day care centers, and other organizations. A tax-free stipend is provided to Foster Grandparents who are financially eligible.

To learn about this program in your area, contact your local County or Tribal Aging Unit.

Getting Together at Senior Centers

Senior Centers are a meeting place for adults 55 and older. Centers offer social, educational, and volunteer opportunities. Activities range from card games, hobby and craft workshops, health services, meals, and exercise classes. Centers often organize bus trips for nearby shopping or distant tourist attractions. Classes in computer training are often held, and attendees can learn to browse on the Internet or send e-mail messages to relatives and friends. Many activities are suggested and run by the center participants themselves.

Contact your Aging Unit to find the nearest senior center.

Good Mental Health

Feelings of helplessness or depression do not have to be a part of aging. Research shows that older people may become addicted to alcohol or certain medications; they may feel depressed and unaware of the seriousness of their condition. Counseling can help relieve those feelings. Older adults are encouraged to take steps to help themselves restore good mental health.

Call your local County or Tribal Aging Unit for a list of professional counselors.

Help in Paying for Prescriptions

Prescription drug assistance for older Wisconsin residents is available. It is called SeniorCare. Paying for prescription medications can be a challenge for older people who have a limited income. This program is for persons 65 years of age and older who meet the eligibility requirements and pay the $20 annual enrollment fee. To learn more about the eligibility requirements and other prescription drug programs, contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit.

Housing and Care Facilities

There are many housing choices for older adults, including living in one's own home or apartment, independent-living apartments, or various assisted living arrangements.

Housing with services caters to different levels of need, from meals and light house-keeping to assistance with bathing and dressing. Some factors to consider include whether one wishes to live in a building limited to older people, a private apartment, or simply a private bedroom. Some people prefer a place with only a few residents, while others prefer the social life of a large complex with many residents. When exploring these choices, it is helpful to visit different kinds of facilities before making a decision.

In Wisconsin, assisted living homes include Community Based Residential Facilities (CBRF) and Residential Care Apartment Complexes (RCAC). Adult Family Homes are private homes where one to four older residents receive care. Nursing homes provide medical care for short or long term care. Most older people still choose to stay in their own homes and get help when they need it.

The County or Tribal Aging Unit can explain the housing options in your area.

Long Term Care Ombudsman

The Long Term Care Ombudsman responds to complaints and problems of residents or recipients of long term care, such as care in nursing homes, community-based residential facilities, and services of the Community Options Program and managed long-term care programs.

Meals at Home or at Nutrition Sites

Older people who would like more than just a meal can eat at least once a day at a nutrition site. Sites are located in community buildings and senior centers. Here older people visit with friends and join in such activities as playing cards or other games. Nurses offer blood pressure and other screenings, and staff from the Aging Unit share useful information with participants. Meals are delivered to the homes of older people who are not able to come to the sites. In some remote areas, where it is not possible to deliver a hot meal on a daily basis, frozen meals are provided weekly or biweekly.

If you have questions about meal services, contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit.

Medigap Helpline

The Medigap Helpline will help you make wise insurance decisions. This is a state-wide toll-free number provided by the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care (WI Board on Aging & Long Term Care) (exit DHS). It has no connection with any insurance company.

Music & Memory

The Wisconsin Music & Memory Program has been designed to bring personalized music to individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.

Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)

Besides volunteering at senior centers, older persons can go into their communities as volunteers to tutor or to give special help to children and adults, to assist in their local library, or to advise new businesses. The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) offers another choice for seniors who wish to do meaningful volunteer work. RSVP offers training in many areas and has opportunities for people with varied career backgrounds and at many levels of ability.

The Retired Senior Volunteer Program or County or Tribal Aging Unit can tell you about local opportunities.

Senior Companion Program

The Senior Companion Program arranges for people age 60 and older to provide assistance and friendship to elderly individuals who are homebound, generally living alone, who may be at risk for institutional placement. By taking care of simple chores, providing transportation to medical appointments, and offering contact to the outside world, Senior Companions often provide the services that frail elderly people need to live independently.

State Health Insurance Assistance Program

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) refers to a group of federal and state funded programs. These programs work together to provide assistance with public and private health insurance issues and options to Medicare beneficiaries or those soon to be Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers. SHIP has a centralized component of statewide assistance and a local component of county- and tribal-based benefit counselors.

Support for Family Caregivers

Family members play an important role in providing care to older people. The Family Caregiver Support Program meets the needs of the spouse or relatives who care for older persons.

While services may vary, there are five main components to this program:

  • Information to caregivers about available services.

  • Assistance to caregivers in obtaining services.

  • Individual counseling, support groups, and training for caregivers.

  • Respite services to provide temporary relief for caregivers.

  • Short-term services for the older person.

To learn more about the Family Caregiver Support Program in your area, contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit.


Transportation services differ among counties and communities. Some areas offer bus or van services to seniors, have volunteer drivers (using private vehicles), or use "shared ride" taxi services to provide transportation to older adults who do not drive. Often, people need transportation to keep medical appointments, go to the grocery store, or do other errands. Special trips to points of interest may be organized and offered.

Contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit to learn about what's available in your area.


Are There Fees for These Services?

In most cases, no fees are charged for the services outlined above. However, County and Tribal Aging Units do accept donations. Older adults and their families are given the opportunity to make a confidential donation towards the cost of the service. Donations not only help to offset the cost of providing service but also support the continuation of the service for others. Older adults or their families can also make a contribution of their time as a volunteer.

It is important to note that small fees may be charged for some programs or services. Often these fees are based on the cost of the services and the older person's ability to pay. To find out about available services, call your County or Tribal Aging Unit.

The Human Services System in Wisconsin

In every county or tribe there is a network of human service providers who serve children, adults, older persons, families, and people with disabilities.

The Division of Long Term Care, a unit of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, provides statewide planning for human services and manages most state and federal money budgeted for them. The Division also makes certain that the services meet standards and are available throughout the state.

Together, state and county governments have developed a caring network that provides services needed most to help with problems or prevent them.

If you have questions or suggestions about services, or find it difficult to obtain the ones you need, contact your County or Tribal Aging Unit or Area Agency on Aging.

County or Tribal Aging Units are sometimes referred to as County Commission on Aging, Aging Resource Center, Department on Aging or Council, Committee on Aging, or some similar name. The Aging Unit is charged with the responsibility of advocating for older adults. Older adults participate in the governance of the aging units and planning of aging services.


Contact Us

Bureau of Aging and Disability Resources
1 W. Wilson Street, Room 551
Post Office Box 7851
Madison, WI 53707-7851

608-266-2536 Voice

Send an inquiry by e-mail.

Last Revised: July 1, 2020