According to the AARP, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) are “communities that were built decades ago and originally served a mix of families and young households, where low turnover of households has led to the transformation of neighborhoods consisting largely of older residents who are aging in place.” A NORC is denoted by any geographically defined community where more than 40% of the population is aged 60 or above and live in their own homes.
Once these communities started to develop, organizations may be formed to provide services to these aging populations. Referred to as Supportive Service Programs (SSPs), these programs provide community-based intervention and assist residents obtain health and social service support, ancillary series like nutrition and fitness, partnerships with other service providers, and service coordination. SSPs may arrange for home repair, social activities, and volunteer support as well as discounts at local merchants. They also provide opportunities for residents to volunteer within the NORC itself.
Although providing services to all aging populations is a goal, it is important to limit the area that a specific NORC encompasses. In an U.S. News report on NORCs, a manager of a St. Louis NORC believes that “by limiting the area, the program retains a local, neighborhood focus. It allows for a deeper understanding of area residents, enables organizers to build a network of local merchants offering discounted services, and makes it easy to develop resident councils within individual neighborhoods and housing complexes”.
NORCs are a great way to provide services and assistance to aging community members and lower the costs associated with moving to traditional nursing homes, assisted living communities, and in-home health care. Most of the funding for NORCs comes from private or public sources such as grants. Members do pay fees, but they are relatively low, especially when compared with the typical costs of assisted living facilities. NORCs also allow residents to stay in their own homes and maintain their sense of independence, which is important to aging Baby Boomers, in particular. For more information, see the blueprint developed by a New York agency for creating, implementing and evaluating successful NORCs.
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