NORCs: The Funny-Sounding Future of Successful Aging
While it sounds like a pejorative slang for someone who’s ratting you out, NORC is an acronym in the aging space that stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. First described in 1984, its formal definition is a “geographically defined community in which 50% of the population is 60 or older and live in their own homes.” At face value, the density of the 60+ and the fact that they’re able to age in place makes it sound like NORCs are the best places for seniors to be, but like any community distribution, NORCs can range from vibrant, interdependent, and lush to isolating and poverty-stricken.
So what separates the good NORCs from the bad? The good tend to have four things: a gym or fitness center, robust event calendaring, reliable and available information from businesses and social service providers, and trustworthiness with providers of services.
Because the majority of residents in a NORC, by definition, live in their own homes, costs for NORCs are dramatically lower than comparable placements in nursing homes. At face value, the things that make NORCs successful also seem to fit in the categories for age friendly communities, as well: the central gym impacts care, calendaring affects community engagement and the availability and trust of services covers transportation, education, care, working (if desired), and general livability. Great! So we should support a blanket of NORCs across the country, right?
Unfortunately, NORCs still require funding “that over the long term is a major concern.” Cash-strapped local governments, which are typically required to match a ratio of federal funding, may not even be able to meet those minimums because the community has to see value in supporting these programs.
So how can we help these unsung heroes of successful aging? Well, we’re ultimately interested in identifying NORCs that may be out there, so leave a comment below and let us know if you think you live in a NORC (and tell us which one!).