History of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Aging in Place Initiative

JFNA’s National NORC Supportive Service Program Initiative:
A History of the Model and Initiative

JFNA’s Involvement with NORC Supportive Service Programs:

Developing solutions that enable seniors to remain living at home for as long as safely feasible, is in keeping with their preferences, promotes their physical and mental wellbeing, and is a promising solution to help deflect the significant financial costs of long-term care anticipated with the retirement of the 78 million Baby Boomers. This issue is an immediate concern of the Jewish community, which is presently aging at nearly twice the national average. As such, it is a top priority of The Jewish Federations of North America, one of the nation’s largest networks of nonprofit community-based health and social service agencies.

The Jewish Federations of North America has helped foster the development of NORC Supportive Service Programs (NORC-SSPs) throughout the federation system as part of its responsibilities to promote innovation, best practices, and program opportunities among the system’s health and social services providers. JFNA spearheaded the development of federal demonstration grant projects, beginning in 2001, as an opportunity to test on a system-wide scale the applicability and adaptability of the NORC Supportive Service model first developed in New York by JFNA’s largest federation, UJA Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York. The New York model, introduced in 1985, has proven to provide a very practical infrastructure for serving the needs of the elderly who are living independently in naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). NORCs are communities, housing developments, apartment buildings, and neighborhoods of single-family residences with high concentrations of older residents. The model now serves more than 40 sites in New York State, where greater than 50,000 older adults reside, and has expanded into enclaves up-state, as well as the original urban neighborhoods of New York City.

The NORC Supportive Services Model:

What makes this program model unique is the core mechanism through which the intervention is delivered; through community building and self-sufficiency. It involves a partnership-building process in which seniors, building owners and managers, local service providers, philanthropies, and other community institutions and organizers come together to create a coordinated basket of services and programs that support the strengths and meet the needs and wants of the seniors living in the NORC.Critical to this endeavor is the active leadership and participation of the seniors themselves in the governance of the programs.

The NORC-SSP basket of services (the key program elements) falls into four main categories:

  • Case mangement, case assistance, and social work services;
  • Health care management and health care assistance, including disease prevention and health promotion;
  • Education, socialization, and recreational activities; and
  • Volunteer opportunities for project participants and other interested community members.

In addition to reduced social isolation, the intended outcomes of the intervention — incorporating the NORC-SSP in the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community – are improved communication and collaboration among the service providers in the community such that gaps and redundancies in services are eliminated; and, ultimately, the creation of strong, healthy communities in which older adults remain living independently, with increased security and quality of life.

Characteristically, NORC Supportive Service programs:

  • Organize and locate a range of coordinated health care and social services and group activities on site;
  • Draw strength from partnerships that unite housing entities and their residents, health and social service providers, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations;
  • Promote independence and healthy aging by engaging seniors before a crisis and responding to their changing needs over time;
  • Provide seniors with vital roles in the development and operation of the program (both in governance and volunteer roles); and
  • Fill the gaps (but do not duplicate) where Medicare, Medicaid, or Older Americans Act services are insufficient or inadequately coordinated.