What is a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community?


Are you a senior citizen considering selling your home to move somewhere that amenities are closer, maybe even within your community, shopping is more convenient, and there are other people your age with whom to enjoy activities?

You might be considering an independent living senior community. An independent living senior community consists of one- or two-bedroom or studio apartments that cost approximately the same as other apartments in the area. But there are a number of added benefits, including:

  • Utilities, landscaping and other expenses included in your monthly fee
  • Easy, convenient transportation directly from the community to area shopping and attractions, often included in the monthly fee
  • Should you need assistance with activities of daily living in the future, you may be able to get assisted living services without moving
  • Organized activities take place within the community and may also include day trips

But maybe you don’t want to pay more for services you don’t necessarily need, you’re not interested in organized activities, or you don’t expect to need assisted living services at any point in the near future. You just want to retire to an affordable apartment and live near other people your age. A Naturally Occurring Retirement Community could be the solution.

What Is a NORC?
NORC stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. Unlike independent living senior communities or assisted living communities, NORCs are not built and then filled with seniors through the sale, lease or rental of the apartments within. NORCs are created:

  • when people move into a neighborhood or apartment complex and then stay there as they get older, creating a “natural” retirement community
  • when a large number of seniors move into the same area
  • when seniors remain in a community as younger residents and families move out

In essence, a NORC is any apartment, apartment complex, neighborhood or even small area like a suburban block, where seniors are the majority. Today, there are thousands of official and unofficial NORCs in the U.S., and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) estimates that more than a quarter of American seniors live in NORCs.

NORC Services
hile regulations vary by state, typically 40 to 50 percent of a population must be over 60 for an area, apartment building or complex to be considered a NORC. If an area is designated by the state, county or other law-making body to be a NORC, services may be offered to help retain the culture and demographic of that area. These are called NORC Supportive Service Programs (NORC-SSPs or SSPs) and may include health services, transportation, volunteer opportunities and community activities designed to help maintain the health and well-being of the residents. This affords NORC residents some of the benefits of a senior retirement community while remaining in the homes they’ve lived in their whole lives.

The Difference Between a NORC and an Independent Retirement Community
Living in a NORC, however, does not assure you the amenities and conveniences of an independent living senior community. While it’s possible seniors settled (or stayed) in the area because of convenient shopping, activities and affordable public transportation, there’s no guarantee the area won’t change in the future. There are no designated community centers, public dining halls, or planned group activities for seniors that an independent retirement community offers as part of the monthly fees.

A number of young families could move in, tilting the demographic back so the area is no longer considered a NORC. An independent retirement community puts you in control of your future, since you pay for services such as light housekeeping and landscaping, while living in a NORC could give you access to these services, but if public policies or the demographic of your community changes, you could be on your own to find these services.

Nonetheless, NORCs are a viable option for many low-to-moderate income seniors who prefer to stay in their homes as they age.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (877) 345-1706 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.