REAL ID Requirements & What It Means for Older Adults

The REAL ID has generated real confusion, particularly around the timing of compliance and what it means for older adults. Our partners at the National Center on Law & Elder Rights (NCLER) created an informative tip sheet that explains what the REAL ID is, how states vary in compliance, and what older adults need to know about securing a REAL ID.


In brief, the REAL ID is identification that complies with a federal law passed in 2005 to implement a recommendation by the 9/11 Commission that the U.S. government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification such as drivers licenses.” By October 1, 2020, every state and territory resident will need to present a REAL ID compliant license/ID, or another acceptable form of identification for accessing “Federal facilities, entering nuclear power plants, and boarding commercial aircraft.”


A REAL ID is NOT needed, however, for older adults to:

  • Apply for and/or receive any federal benefits (such as Veterans benefits or Social Security)
  • Enter a post office or other federal facility that does not require identification
  • Ride Amtrak or other public ground transportation
  • Visit a hospital or receive life-saving services


For more information, read NCLER’s tip sheet. Also read the San Diego Union-Tribune’s article, What is California REAL ID? In 2020, you’ll need it to board a flight.