Community Spotlight Archive: Minneapolis

Community Spotlight: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Nurturing Our Retired Citizens NORC Program

Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis

Mari Forbush, COO and Annette Sandler, Aging & Disability Service Director

Minneapolis’ NORC program began in the fall of 2003 with funding from the Administration on Aging, and has been sustained through a multiplicity of sources. In addition to Federal support, the program has received two rounds of Community Service System Change grants from the State of Minnesota. The program received additional funding through the National Center for Senior Transportation and the Beverly Foundation Star Award.

The mission of the project is to help older adults remain in their own homes for as long as possible with the resources they need to be safe, healthy engaged citizens. The Vision is to inspire residents of all ages to work toward this goal. In developing the program, JFCS learned that the community was rich in resources but was challenged by impediments to services access. People did not know what resources existed, how to access the resources, or who qualified for the resources. In response, the NORC program was designed to educate the community about aging issues, help people learn about resources, and help the community create programs that strengthen the safety net for seniors.

Through this initiative, JFCS created community wide resource directories, both hard and electronic forms. The electronic copy is maintained on-line at This directory includes state and county resources along with local community resources that would help a person navigate the system of Home and Community Based Services. In addition they created a planning guide for families called “ProActive to Stay Active,” a tool that can also be downloaded from the website. It is an “empowerment” guide to help people to get the conversation started and to think about and plan for how and where they want to grow old.

Collaboration is also a key element of the program. JFCS airs a quarterly NORC health and wellness lecture series through the community cable TV station. The lectures are designed to educate the community on aging issues, community resources and caregiver programs. With each televised presentation, the program regularly reaches 1,600 viewers. The lecturers volunteer their time and the TV station produces and edits the episodes, provides the time-slots and advertises the series at no cost to JFCS or the NORC program.

One of the cornerstones of our Minneapolis NORC project is its social services component, which is provided through a Congregational Nurse model. According to a Hennepin County Shape Study, 85% of seniors remain connected to a faith community. Through its Congregational Nurse model, the Minneapolis NORC program helps faith communities hire nurses that conduct outreach to its own aging congregants. The nurses primarily do assessments and referrals to services. This initiative has been successful because faith communities inherently know who within their congregation are isolated seniors and they have at their disposal motivated volunteers to help serve this at-risk population. The program has enabled JFCS to work with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim congregations, and utilizes 16 congregational nurses that participate in what is referred to as the West Metro Congregational Nurse Network. It is facilitated by a NORC Community Specialist provided by JFCS, who provides the Network with resources, shares best practices, and a learning forum.

Moreover, Minneapolis’ NORC program promotes healthy aging through a community partnership called the Successful Aging Initiative. The initiative is facilitated by the program’s NORC Coordinator, and the partnership is comprised of physicians, retired physicians, social service providers, senior housing administrators, and seniors from the community. It includes four sub-initiatives/focuses that are staffed by volunteers under the descriptive headings: Seniors stay safe at home; Transportation; Get-up and Get active; and, Advance Care Planning (Honoring Choices Minnesota. A fifth focus is under consideration that would focus on and serve older adults with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2003, Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Minneapolis secured its AoA grant with the help and support of the Jewish Federation’s of North America (JFNA) and participated in a dissemination initiative facilitated by JFNA for the benefit of the Aging Services Network at-large. Keeping true to this commitment, Minneapolis’ NORC Coordinator continues to serve as a consultant to other neighboring communities to help them start their own senior initiatives.

For more information about the Nurturing Our Retired Citizens NORC Program, contact Mari Forbush