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NORCs: A New Way to Age in Place

Last update on: Mar 15 2020

I mentioned these in the past in Retirement Watch, but it’s good to see take a detailed look at naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). These are neighborhoods in which a large number of people move when relatively young and never move. Because of the critical mass of older people, they are able to develop programs that normally are found only in communities built explicitly for 55+ communities. There’s even an organization that helps communities develop programs for their aging populations.

To address problems like these, nonprofit organizations and governments have established NORC programs that concentrate services within a specific geographic area dense with senior citizens. The most common include transportation, social get-togethers, assistance with arranging home health care and housekeeping, and mental health and bereavement counseling. The idea is to meet the needs of seniors where they are, instead of requiring the elderly to overhaul their lives and move to get the help they need.

High-density urban areas like New York City and Boston can be ideal for aging. There are plenty of neighbors for human contact, elevators to get in and out of buildings, and public transportation and services are close by. But currently, only a fifth of older Americans live in such areas, while the rest are navigating more challenging, lower-density landscapes. “It’s a concern in terms of isolation,” said Jennifer Molinsky, a researcher at the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies. More than half of elderly people eventually give up driving. “How do we bring services to those people and get them where they need to be?”




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