In looking once again at aging in place, let’s look at whether you really need to know what a NORC is and how it is different from a CCRC.
Conventional wisdom dictates that most of us would want to stay where we are as we grow older, but this isn’t always the case. It depends on the person’s unique circumstances. Some of these factors include:
The kind of home or condo you own – does it require lots of maintenance and have stairs or other factors that require lots of physical attention?
Is it necessary to drive a car to get groceries, visit friends, or get to social activities, or can you carpool or use public transportation?
Many people don’t think about the social isolation factor of staying in their own familiar home, but if an elder doesn’t have friends or neighbors nearby that can check in on them, elders can become isolated in a solitary and repetitive routine that can be deleterious to their emotional and mental health!
Refining the balance of social engagement and doing your own thing is something that is often required for successful aging in place. Change is the only constant, but many of us will voice concerns about maintaining our “independence” at all costs. With so many baby boomers reaching elderhood now, it will be interesting to see the myriad and innovative ways that boomers meet this challenge. Apart from their huge number, boomers have a relatively high proportion of divorce and remarriage (blended families) as well as co-habitation. There really is no “norm” for the boomers in this regard!
I think the best advice for folks nearing retirement and hoping to age in place and otherwise stay put is to consider all relevant options and to make a plan. I particularly like the Dwight Eisenhower quote in this context:
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
In my line of work, I find that people often think that sticking to a plan (or more likely, just some fixed idea about how things would turn out) is the most important thing. As if life were something we could plan and force execution of the plan! We are so checklist and task-obsessed in our busy world, we tend to forget that the planning process is the both the end as well as the means – not the fashioning of a solid plan which often must be adjusted and sometimes jettisoned. This is one of the reasons I often refer to the work I do for clients as helping them identify a strategy.
If you want to think about this aging-in-place notion a bit more, here’s a post from Fidelity about success factors to consider in staying put as you grow older.
One of the factors that can help elders age in place is staying put in a place, a community, a neighborhood, that has plenty of supportive services which many elders will need as they age. Enter the NORC, the naturally occurring retirement community!
The NORC, yes it’s legit, it’s in Wikipedia! NORCs have been broadly defined as communities where individuals or couples either remain in or move to when they retire.
Of course what is “natural” in the naturally occurring retirement community is a rather broad and generous concept. This could be as simple as an apartment complex for elders, a housing development or a neighborhood. As to the neighborhood concept, this has been well-developed by the NORC Aging in Place Initiative, which is a program of the Jewish Federations of North America. The full name of the initiative is the NORC-SSP, “SSP” being short for supportive services program, which considers the social services appropriate and necessary to foster independent living for elders.
Some of the important factors include financial considerations, which vary widely among those already retired the “semi-retired” and those still years away. People are generally working longer, and this is probably a good thing for the majority of people, but some have no choice in the matter.
In my last post, I looked at the importance of having this conversation about aging and caregiving arrangements before there is any crisis. I often work with people (and their loved ones) who suffer from progressive diseases which practically demand such conversations – those with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, as well as other neurodegenerative conditions which have both a physical and cognitive or mental health component. Some of these folks will do the planning and have the financial ability to choose a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) which is also a kind of NORC.
As I am often reminded. . . . Aging is not for sissies! It is, of course, best done with a plan including effective durable powers of attorney and other means to choose in the event of incapacity.
I’ll close with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, who reminds us that human growth is always a possibility, no matter where we find ourselves:
Always do what you are afraid to do.
© Barbara E. Cashman 2016 www.DenverElderLaw.org