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Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

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The NORC business model
The NORC business model © Photo courtesy of Crestmoor Downs NORC program

All NORC programs have at minimum one paid staff member, but rely heavily on volunteers -- many of whom, crucially, are older adult participants. Most have community-based governance.

"There is a lead organization -- typically a social service provider -- and they use a relatively small amount of money to achieve big outcomes," Greenfield says. "They need to understand the community they are serving -- who are the big stakeholders, what are the gaps in services -- and do community outreach and partnership building. In a smaller municipality, the mayor's office might be a major stakeholder, or someone at the library dedicated to engaging and better serving older adults."

NORCs operate on a surprisingly small budget. "They are relatively inexpensive to mount," Huberman says. "Budgets run from $10,000-$664,000, but the median is $114,200. The reason is the heavy use of volunteers and lower staff burnout because they're dealing with a vibrant, successful model."

Huberman contends that more communities should seek to establish NORCs because of their comparatively low start-up cost. "A NORC will make a tremendous difference in the quality of your parents' and grandparents' lives," he says.

"Typically, they're funded by a mix of public and private resources -- government, private foundations, donors, property management groups," Greenfield says. "Some NORC programs charge membership fees, but they are minimal and account for less than 5 percent of the budget."

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