Continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, were the subject of the most recent blog post.

There are a host of alternatives to these communities for seniors, including aging in place.

A variant of aging in place is called a naturally occurring retirement community, or NORC. Such communities got their start in the mid-1980s in New York City, where the UJA Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York began targeting health care and social services for older adults in New York City apartment buildings with mostly seniors as tenants.

In the 1st decade of this century, Congress funded NORC program grants that established pilot programs across the country. Federal funding of these pilot programs has since ended.

Core community components

The Jewish Federations of North America established the 4 core program components of a NORC:

  • Case management, assistance and social work services.
  • Health care management, assistance and prevention programs.
  • Education, socialization and recreational activities.
  • Volunteer opportunities for program participants.

NORCs evolve

Unlike continuing care retirement communities, NORCs are not planned communities. According to NORCBlueprint.org, a site sponsored by the United Hospital Fund, they evolve, either as seniors age in place while the younger generations move away or as seniors move into an area, often an urban center, that gives them access to culture, amenities and other activities. NORCBlueprint offers a 5-step approach to developing a naturally occurring retirement community program.

Types of these communities

NORCBlueprint defines housing-based NORCs as being located in a single age-integrated apartment building, a housing complex with multiple buildings under common management or an area where a number of apartment buildings are clustered together.

It defines neighborhood-based NORCs as typically 1- and 2-family homes in age-integrated neighborhoods. Some NORCs are also based on the resident’s interests, like the arts, or a shared experience, like military service.

Rather than just emphasizing the provision of services to individuals, the NORCBlueprint program model also promotes community change. The model offers opportunities to empower older adults to take on new roles in shaping their communities, weave a tighter social fabric and foster connections among the residents, and to maximize the health and well-being of all older adults in the NORC.

My expectation is that this type of retirement community is going to become more and more important as seniors who decide to age in place look for a support network to keep them healthy, active and safe in their homes and their community.

Would you rather live in a naturally occurring retirement community or a continuing care retirement community?