Senior Living Business: Working With NORC Programs And Villages--

An Aging-In-Place Option With Opportunities For Providers

 The term “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community,” or NORC, describes a community not specifically developed for seniors but having a significant proportion of older adult residents. In a dense urban area, a NORC may occur in a single apartment building, a housing complex with common management, or a cluster of apartment buildings in close proximity; in a less urban area, it may be a neighborhood of apartments and/or single-family homes. Generally, a NORC forms as one of two quite-different models: 

 1. NORC supportive-services program. A public/private partnership involving a housing or neighborhood organization, health-care providers, social-service providers, and the residents themselves, the purpose of a NORC supportive-services program is to coordinate a broad range of free or low-cost social, health management, and wellness services and to provide educational and recreational activities for the residents in order to maximize the health and wellbeing of the community as a whole. Funding for a NORC program may come from a combination of government agencies, housing authorities, grants, philanthropies, corporations, and/or local hospitals. Residents pay fees for certain services such as nursing care.

 Eligibility is based on residence and age; all older adults living within the geographic boundaries of the NORC are served. Legislative criteria, regulations, and language vary from state to state; e.g., half the residents in the defined area must be over age 50, or 40% of the heads of households in a defined area of at least 200 qualifying individuals may be age 65 or older. NORC programs have been established in more than half the states; New York has about 50, with more than half of those in New York City.

 NORCs are not about senior living communities; rather, they’re about communities in which seniors are already living, according to Fredda Vladeck, Director of The Aging In Place Initiative at the United Hospital Fund in New York City and one of the founders of NORC programs in New York State.

 “A senior living provider will continue to appeal to a segment of the population that desires to be in an age-specific community and that also has the means to pay for it,” she said. “It remains to be seen, though, what will happen to future generations. While they may be more numerous in terms of sheer numbers, I’m not sure they’ll be in the same economic position as people who are 10, 15, or 20 years older.” That situation has consequences for senior living communities across the country, and that’s where a NORC program or a Village model can work.

 NORC programs do not duplicate existing service groups, but are for seniors who need more than just help managing event-based care or even their primary condition. They need help understanding their medications, negotiating assistance, and managing other types of services not covered by Medicare. “A NORC program is not about medical care,” Vladeck stressed. “It’s about health-care management—counseling, navigation, education, support, training, and some hands-on services.”

 A NORC program is also not fixed in stone. It reflects and responds to what’s happening in the community, both demographically and according to the needs. Back in the 1990s, for example, about four NORCs in New York City dealing with a very old population had set up onsite adult day programs funded through user fees. The population changed after about 10 years and no longer had that need, so the adult day programs were dissolved. A NORC program is able to determine which resources, strengths, and social capital can help shore up and support the community...Want to read more? Click here for a free trial to Senior Living Business and download the current issue today