Last month, the New York Association of Realty Managers (NYARM) hosted a seminar on a somewhat new phenomenon known as "NORCs." Short for "Naturally Occuring Retirement Communities," the acronym has come to mean much to many seniors throughout the country, particularly New York City, who have been enabled to remain in their homes and communities. The term NORC is a demographic description resulting from a social pattern called ‘aging-in-place,’ says Nat Yalowitz, president and chief executive officer of NORC Supportive Services Center (NORC-SSC), a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to assist housing entities develop senior service programs. He explains, "Many older people who moved into apartment buildings or housing complexes when they were younger now need help to remain living independently in their residences." The NYARM seminar was just one step in an effort to educate the co-op and condo community about this evolving trend toward developing senior services.
The Purpose of NORC Programs
While each individual NORC program will have its own unique combination of services, the basic goals and objective remain the same: to improve the quality of life for senior residents. Services in NORC communities can include anything from increased amounts of social activities to assistance with personal hygiene. The NORC-SSC lists a number of its own objectives for member buildings. Some of these goals are: Improve residents’ access to services and programs by bringing them on site of housing units; Maximize client’s choices and control and promote resident autonomy; Improve the quality of professional services and client protection; Strengthen housing quality ( i.e., safety, security and maintenance); Promote residents’ interaction and sense of community; Prevent unnecessary or premature institutionalization; Ensure that services go to those with the greatest need.
Executed successfully, these categorical objectives benefit senior residents, their families, building boards and managers and entire communities. Seniors can obtain the support they need to stay in their buildings longer and they become more active in the community. In essence, NORC programs make for happier and healthier residents.
"Traditionally, senior housing has taken a backseat to the other forms of real estate. This is no longer the case. Recently, there has been a half-dozen stories on the senior housing field in the New York Times alone," says Bob Wisenfeld, publisher of LifeAhead, a newsletter designed to educate individuals about current and new senior housing communities in the Tri-State area. Adding that ABC Evening News with Peter Jennings has also visited the topic, Wisenfeld relates the need for society to understand the current condition of senior housing and services in their communities. It is important for boards and their managers to acknowledge the growing trend of NORCs and to, perhaps, mimic programs established to provide additional services to senior residents.