A naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) is a community or neighborhood with a growing population of older adults in which the dwellings were not purposefully intended for older adults when they were originally designed and/or built.
Currently, state and local NORC programs exist, each with distinct requirements to become formally designated as a NORC and receive program funding. These requirements are designed to support and integrate a range of on-site health and support services to support aging in place. On-site services and supports are coordinated through a partnership involving a lead agency (often a non-profit social services agency), NORC residents, building managers, housing associations and owners, and community partners.
In New York State, there are two types of NORCs: Classic NORCs and Neighborhood NORCs. A Classic NORC is an apartment building or housing complex. A Neighborhood NORC is a residential dwelling or group of residential dwellings in a geographically defined neighborhood or group of contiguous neighborhoods. Neighborhood NORCs may exist in a rural or non-rural area. (See further details below).
How A NORC Develops
A NORC can develop in a few ways. It can occur as residents move into a building, group of buildings or residential area and age in place over time. Additionally, younger residents might move out and/or older residents might move in. The age demographics evolve “naturally.”
NORC History in NY
The NORC movement has its roots in New York – specifically New York City, where population density in high-rise apartment buildings or complexes created the conditions for many of the early NORCs to evolve. Today there are NORCs in smaller urban areas and, even, in some rural communities.
New York's first NORC started in 1986 using private funding. State legislation in 1994 led to the creation of 10 NORC programs. In 1999, New York City introduced its own NORC legislation. With additional funding and program changes – including the development of Neighborhood NORCs in rural and non-rural areas outside of larger cities – New York currently funds 41 NORCs serving thousands of clients.
For a history of the program, please see the United Hospital Fund's report on New York’s Model for NORC Supportive Service Programs.
A NORC is more than just a housing design. In the case of New York’s program, NORCs coordinate a broad range of health and social services to help support older residents to age in their own homes. NORCs do so by facilitating and integrating the health and social services already available in the community while organizing additional services and supports necessary to help meet the goal of enabling older adults to remain in their community.
Types of NYS NORCS
To be eligible for NORC services, an individual must be 60 years or older. However, a NORC area cannot restrict admissions solely to older adults. Also, the NORC area or buildings within the NORC must not have been developed with the intention of predominately housing older adults.
Classic NORC – an apartment building or housing complex in which:
- At least 40 percent of the units have an occupant who is an older adult and at least 250 of the residents of an apartment building are older adults or 500 residents of a housing complex are older adults; and
- A majority of the older adults to be served are low or moderate income, as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Neighborhood NORC – a residential dwelling or group of residential dwellings in a geographically defined neighborhood or group of contiguous neighborhoods which:
- Is in a non-rural area* that has at least 30 percent of residents who are older adults or the units have an occupant who is an older adult; or is in a rural area** that has at least 20 percent of residents who are older adults or the units have an occupant who is an older adult; and
- Is made up of low-rise buildings six stories or fewer and/or single and/or multi-family homes without common ownership, provided, however, that apartment buildings and housing complexes may be included in rural areas.
*Non-rural areas are defined as any county, city, or town that has a population or population density greater than that which defines a rural area.
**Rural areas are defined as counties having a population of fewer than 200,000 people; or in counties with a population of 200,000 or more, towns with a population density of less than 150 people per square mile.
Funding for NORCs and Neighborhood NORCs is established through the New York State Executive Budget, with amounts determined annually. Contract Awards are issued through a competitive Request for Applications (RFA) process. Contract periods may vary but are typically for a five-year period.
Importantly, the program also includes a match requirement; programs are required to obtain matching funds of at least 25 percent of the state funding.
Each NORC program completes a needs assessment to determine what combination of services is appropriate; however, all NORCs must provide certain "required priority services" and may provide optional services that meet their resident’s needs.
Priority services include: case management, information and assistance, healthcare management, and healthcare assistance and monitoring. Programs must meet minimum units of service for these priority services. Minimum units of service are based on the grant amount awarded.
Optional services include: transportation, personal care, counseling, telephone reassurance or friendly visiting programs, outreach activities, and more.
See the Standard Definitions of Services here to learn more about required and optional services.
Among other requirements, a program must have a qualified full-time director. Programs receiving $100,000 or more in funds must have 1 FTE case manager and .5 FTE healthcare professional.