Baby boomers have already changed the way the world views retirment. Everyone knows that 60 is the new 40, as senior citizens are remaining active long after their parents and grandparents slowed down. Now, in a bold social experiment, they are changing the dyamics of retirement living through transforming neighborhoods where many seniors live into Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs).

History
NORCs consist of areas where a significant portion of the population is near or has reached retirement age and social services have been organized to assist the residents in their efforts to remain in their homes. NORCs are an increasingly popular retirement destination, as they enable retirees to keep their social networks intact, remain active in their communities and access necessary social services in a convenient and cost-effective manner.

The first NORC was developed in New York City in the 1980s as a cooperative venture between the United Jewish Federation and residents of the 3,000 unit Penn South Houses housing cooperative. There are NORCs in 25 states according to norcblueprint.org.

Money and More

NORCs are an attactive retirement living option for a host of reasons, not the least of which is financial. Long-term care is expensive. Not everyone can afford to move to a luxury assisted living residence and few want to live in a nursing home even if they can afford to do it. NORCs can provide access to a variety of services ranging from meal delivery and transportation to doctor's offices to on-site health and medical services at attractive prices. They benefit from pooled resources, subsidies and focused efforts to address the needs of a concentrated population.

They also enable retirees to remain in comfortable and familiar surroundings in an environment that offers ongoing recreational activities that range from continuing education and organized activities to cultural events and opportunites to socialize. While these types of services may not seem important to younger people, older citizens with limited mobility and limited financial resources can easily become socially isolated. Such isolation has been shown to contribute to a variety of health problems ranging from heart disease and dementia to obesity and depression - all of which are both unpleasant to endure and expensive to treat.

How NORCs Work
Most NORCs are public/private partnerships that pool the resources of private citizens, neighborhood associations, governement agencies and philantrhropic entities. The United Jewish Federation has been a particularly strong supporter, as the group represents a large constituency of older individuals.

Funding sources vary from NORC to NORC. Most are a combination of governement sources and private resources. Some have membership fees paid by residents, others collect donations.

While the cost savings NORCs provide are beneficial to residents, aging in place may also require long-time residents or new arrivals to modify their dwellings to help deal with some of the physical limitations and challenges that come with aging. Putting a seat in the shower, handrails in the toilet area, lights in all closets and stairwells, easy to use handles on cabinets, non-skid surfaces on sidewalks and steps, an access ramp for wheelchair use and other senior-citizen friendly amenities into a home can add up to a hefty bill. Planning in advance for these remodeling expenses or moving to a dwelling that already offers them should be taken into consideration.

The Bottom Line
The population of residents age 65 or older is rising rapidly. The Census Bureau predicts that more than 70 million Amercans will be 65 years of age or older by 2050. Even if you are a long way from being part of that demographic, sooner or later you will join the crowd. If you don't already live in or near a NORC, you can move to one, as there are large and established NORCs in Atlanta; Baltimore; New York; Pittsburgh; St. Louis, Mo.; and a host of other cities. They offer a variety of housing options that range from single apartment buildings to family homes in sprawling neighborhoods. Whether you prefer a condominium or a housing cooperative, there is a NORC out there that may be just right for you.

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