Grantees Say Aging-in-Place Projects Must Be Tailored to Local Conditions

The term “Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities” conjures the image of an apartment building where people have lived for decades, creating a de-facto senior housing facility that, with a few structural changes and a lot of social services, can be a thriving senior community. In practice, however, there are several models for NORCs. For example, Jewish Family and Children’s Services in Boston, which just received $689,000 as part of a third round of NORC grants totaling $5.1 million from AoA, is applying the concept to a subsidized intergenerational housing development, two adjacent private apartment buildings in a neighborhood of older Soviet immigrants and a mixed-income condominium. Although the three communities are located in service-rich communities, many seniors do not access these services because of narrow eligibility requirements and resistance to seeking help from unfamiliar agencies.

Making It Easy to Connect

To overcome these obstacles, JFCS arranged for local senior center shuttles to stop once a week at each NORC. The agency is also creating resident news bulletins, a telephone tree to inform residents of upcoming events and a website that has an optional web page for each resident. In fact, these web pages will update residents’ health status and care management plans and can be accessed by family caregivers.

Meanwhile, resident advisory councils will do outreach and organize community projects, while volunteers within each NORC will maintain contact with isolated or homebound residents, helping them with errands and escorting them to activities. The volunteer program includes a banking system that credits volunteers for direct-service hours. Volunteers of all ages will also be recruited from outside the NORCs, and Beth Israel Hospital will offer train-the-trainer programs to teach volunteers how to conduct exercise programs. Additional support comes from building managers, who are providing free office space, and service providers, who have agreed to offer discounted services. Madison, Wis., is also taking a multipronged approach to supporting NORCs. Comprising four continuing care retirement communities, the Madison Area Continuing Care Consortium will develop a program for a NORC in a higher-income, moderate density urban area and then adapt it to lower income neighborhoods and a rural area. The idea is to provide older persons with all the services of a continuing care retirement community without having to move to a CCRC.

Participants will pay a $25 monthly membership fee and low-income residents will be subsidized through the sale of wellness and prevention services to wealthier consumers in what Project Director John Noreika calls a “Robin Hood” model. In theory, this will result in this program being selfsufficient in four years.

To extend the eyes, ears and hands of nurses, the consortium will use a “Care Companion Home Monitoring Unit” consisting of a video telephone and related equipment that allows off-site nurses to monitor blood oxygen, glucose levels and other factors. Residents will also have “smart cards” that hold important medical and social data, as is widely done in Europe.

Homes, hopes to recruit 2,000 members by June 2008. At that point, he expects to see sharply lower emergency rooms usage, fewer nursing home placements and less hospital bed day use. Meanwhile, by using the power of group purchasing, he hopes to negotiate favorable rates for long term care insurance.

Contact: John Noreika, MACCC, (608) 692-8486,; Rimma Zelfand, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, 617-227-6641,

Moving Up, Spreading Out

Like many other NORC grantees, the Jewish Community Relations Council in Indianapolis seeks to draw people out of their homes to interact with neighbors, but there is more than one way to do that. Thus, the council is focusing on a two-story, 111-unit Sec. 202 HUD project that became eligible for AoA grant money for the first time. But it also seeks to promote the NORC model in suburban areas of single-family homes. “Our project is unique because we’ll be creating services for both a horizontal and vertical NORC,” Community Affairs Director Lindsey Mintz told OAR, “and our geographic area is so diverse ethnically, religiously and socio-economically.” Contact: Lindsey Mintz, Jewish Community Relations Council, (317)926-2935