NORCs: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities

NORCs The Benefits and Drawbacks

As time progresses the housing options for seniors increase exponentially. In fact, there are so many choices that sometimes it’s hard to determine which option is best. One of the fastest growing housing selections is NORCs. An acronym for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, a NORC is a place that wasn’t originally intended for the senior community, but houses a large amount of retired and elderly citizens.

Sizable elderly populations such as NORCs come about when people decide to age in place at their homes instead of re-locating. Naturally occurring retirement communities now have the NORC Supportive Services Program (NORC-SSP) in place to assist with healthy aging. Some of the key services the NORC-SSP includes are health care management and prevention programs, education, socialization, recreational and volunteer activities/opportunities, and social work services. Yet, as with any of life’s major choices, there are visible benefits and drawbacks.

  • Benefit 1: Community Building

Throughout a person’s life, he or she develops relationships with peers, co-workers, neighbors, and community. Just as it is trying for a child to change schools halfway through the semester, it is tough for someone to be taken out of his or her home and re-located. NORCs offer the opportunity to stay with the community one has planted roots in, as well as participate in activities that bring the inhabitants closer together. Socialization is an extremely important aspect of happy living and aging.

  • Benefit 2: Independence

Having one’s independence taken away is never desired. By continuing to age at home, seniors keep their nobility and fiery spirit. Programs are put in place to aid those who need help with transportation and food, while still maintaining that wall between home living and assisted living.

  • Benefit 3: Low Cost

Many people realize much too late the dauntingly high cost of assisted living. NORCs are an economical way to age gracefully with low payments and high satisfaction.

  • Drawback 1: Non-healthy NORCs

Not surprisingly, some NORCs are much healthier than others. When considering aging at home, it is in everyone’s best interest to look for specific services offered in the retirement community. A healthy living community will be clean, have adequate transportation services, walking access to all amenities, active community environments, high population density, respectable relationships with local governments, and should feel safe. If you find that the NORC does not meet the above criteria, it may be best to look at other options.

  • Drawback 2: No Immediate Medical Attention

If your senior has serious health concerns, it may be best to consider placing them in a home with immediate medical assistance. Your loved one’s health is of the utmost importance and should not be taken lightly. Alzheimer’s or dementia is not to be trifled with; a missed medication or forgotten stove-top can lead to deadly consequences. If you are unsure if it is safe to keep your loved one in a NORC, contact the doctor and discuss potential circumstances that may be dangerous.

  • Drawback 3: You Can’t Sell your Unit on the Open Market

By buying a limited equity cooperative, you are forbidden from selling the unit in an open market. Instead, the unit must be sold back to the cooperative at a low-market rate. This enables housing to stay at a low and reasonable price.


The benefits of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities far outweigh the drawbacks. But every situation is different, and every senior has specific requirements unique to their preferred lifestyle. With increasing numbers of choices and with enough research, you will find the home that is right for you or your loved one!




Masotti, Paul J., Robert Fick, Ana Johnson-Masotti, and Stuart MacLeod. “Healthy Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities: A Low-Cost Approach to Facilitating Healthy Aging.” American Journal of Public Health. © American Journal of Public Health 2006, n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

“Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.” Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.

“NORCs in NYC.” Urban Omnibus NORCs in NYC Comments. N.p., 17 Mar. 2010. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.