‘NORCs’ – Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities’ is a demographic term to describe neighborhoods or buildings in which a large segment of the residents are older adults. In general, they are not purpose-built senior housing or retirement communities and were neither designed nor intended to meet the particular health and social services needs and wants of the elderly. Most commonly, they are places where community residents have either aged in place, having lived in their homes over several decades, or are the result of significant migrations of older adults into the same housing constructs or neighborhoods, where they intend to spend the rest of their lives.
The NORC Supportive Service Programs (SSP) being tested through this initiative comprise an innovative approach to community-based health and supportive service delivery that is intended to capitalize on the NORCs demographic phenomenon to advance health and social services to seniors living in NORCs. Research conducted in the 1990’s found a strong belief within the Aging Services Network that NORCs provide a singular opportunity to deliver targeted health and supportive services cost-effectively; increase service availability; organize cooperative health promotion, crises prevention, and community improvement initiatives; and develop new human, financial, and neighborhood resources for the benefit of older residents.
Within this Initiative, participating grantees are adopting, adapting, and customizing the NORC-SSP model according to local needs, resources, and other factors that makes each demonstration a unique program. However, successful programs embody the following elements, principles and themes:
- Serving seniors aging in place (promoting independence).
- Serving defined geographical boundaries (as concentrated as possible).
- Serving to empower seniors – enable them to be independent.
- Creating an environment of personal and physical security for the seniors served.
- Serving to create community – there is a connectedness among the seniors involved and between the seniors and the providers (support systems are made.)
- Requiring partnerships that are organized/directed by a lead agency – the collaboration of service agencies results in centralized, targeted services.
- Delivering a basket of services. Core services include healthcare; social work; and socialization. There are also ancillary services that are dependent on the particular needs and interests of each community.
- Serving seniors where the seniors live – on-site or in close proximity.
- Utilizing and maximizing existing services of the community, whether by avoiding duplication of services or by accessing untapped services.
- Focussing on meeting unmet needs of the seniors – closing the gap of existing services.
- Striving to enhance the quality of life of the seniors served.
- Encouraging and utilizing volunteerism – both intergenerational and by the seniors themselves (utilize seniors as resources).
- Relying on buy-in/commitment from the community. It is essential that the programs build in community support and local ownership from the seniors and other essential stake holders, such as building owners/operators.
The U.S. Administration on Aging (AoA), the Federal Agency charged with advocating for the health and human services needs of older Americans, has made central to its public policy agenda the provision of greater health and human services choices for older adults at the community level.
AoA administers Older Americans Act programs, including the National NORCs Initiative. To learn more about how the NORCs Initiative contributes to AoA’s mission, click onto the following remarks of AoA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Programs, Edwin Walker.