NORCs: Unique Havens for an Aging America

Naturally occurring retirement communities keep seniors connected and in their homes.

By + More

Listening. Jacki Newfield, the program's community outreach supervisor, says building relationships with community members and facilitating interaction between them are not an overnight process. Earning residents' trust requires frequent visits, responsiveness to their concerns, and lots of listening. Once these relationships are built, residents sometimes open up about very private and personal issues that they have been wary of sharing, even with close family members. At a recent resident council meeting, for example, Newfield encourages everyone to participate and have their say. After the meeting, in private, one woman breaks down and tells Newfield she is lost as to how to find more meaning in her life.

One of the program's older residents, 96-year-old Ida Seltzer, works hard to stay active by attending a knitting and crocheting circle and tooling around her housing complex in a motorized wheelchair that sports a metallic-red paint job. Still, she acknowledges that loneliness is a frequent companion at her age and that being in her own home surrounded by a lifetime of memories helps a lot. "Sometimes I get depressed and feel like giving up," she says, "but the NORC ... makes me feel more like a person and keeps me in touch with other people."