In Northeast Philadelphia, there’s a free retirement community — one where older adults can age safely and with dignity in their very own homes, with our Jewish Federation’s support. We call it the Northeast NORC.
NORC stands for Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It’s a neighborhood that contains a large proportion of people over age 60. Since the area wasn’t originally planned to meet aging populations’ needs, residents of a NORC can find it increasingly hard to do things like grocery shopping, changing light bulbs, mowing the lawn or getting to a doctor’s appointment. Often, they can feel isolated. And yet residents of the Northeast NORC — which spans six zip codes — would prefer to continue living in their homes. That’s why our Jewish Federation, along with many community partners, created a system to link the NORC’s 1,700 members with the services they need.
The NORC provides home assessments; home maintenance and repairs; transportation to medical appointments and Jewish life and learning events; socialization opportunities; and information and referral services. “The squirrels get in and chew up all my screens. And they sent someone and repaired all my screens!” says Helen, a 92-year old NORC resident. “I have a friend in North Wales who tells me, ‘I wish I had someone like that!” NORC personnel also regularly check in with friendly visits and phone calls. And residents are encouraged to come to the KleinLife Center for free exercise classes, gardening in the hoop houses, and socializing over lunch and learns.
Volunteers are key to the NORC’s success. They do everything from raking leaves, flipping mattresses, painting and changing smoke alarm batteries to minor repairs like installing shower grab bars and winterizing homes by covering windows in plastic. NORC volunteers find the experience meaningful beyond the work itself, as it becomes an opportunity to talk and connect with older adults, and hear their stories. One recent group of teenage volunteers visiting a woman living by herself even lit Chanukah candles together.