NORC @ JFCS, an initiative of Jewish Family & Children’s Service, is providing transportation, minor home repairs and care management at a low cost to older adults in Philadelphia.
The acronym “NORC” stands for “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community,” and is used in public health spheres to describe regions with a high population of older adults living in their family homes.
Brenda Edelman, Assistant Director of Older Adult Services at JFCS, said a NORC often forms after young people and families flock to a neighborhood, and the children grow up or move away as the parents age.
“The neighborhood is changing. It used to be young families with kids,” Edelman said. “Now it’s become a naturally occurring retirement community and nobody planned for that.”
Many of these older adults need assistance with certain tasks, such as driving or fixing appliances, but they don’t want to move into an assisted living community.
“People fall in love with their neighborhoods, with the tree that they planted when their daughter was born that’s now huge on their property … it’s safe, it’s a familiar environment, they paid off their house … where are they moving to?” Edelman said.
“We want to focus on maintaining and sustaining that older adult that wants to stay in their home in Northeast Philly,” she said.
The program, which costs $50 a year for individuals or $80 for a household with two or more people, is open to anybody of any religion within the following ZIP codes: 19111, 19114, 19115, 19116, 19149, 19152.
Edelman said there are many reasons why older adults end up alone or without assistance. For some, their children grew up and moved away or don’t have the capacity to help their parents. Other older adults may have outlived their spouses, family and even their own children.
“For those individuals who are really socially isolated, it’s really difficult,” Edelman said. “We might be that lifeline, especially for individuals in an older adult community that don’t have family resources for a variety of really sad reasons.”
Maxine Goldman, who uses NORC @ JFCS, finds peace of mind from the program.
“I live by myself and I’m in the Northeast and I just turned 72,” she said. “My children worry about me. I know how to change the air conditioner filter but I can’t actually do it because I have terrible arthritis. So just taking it out and pushing it in is an ordeal.”
Goldman said she primarily takes advantage of the program’s home maintenance, but one of the most important benefits that NORC @ JFCS can provide is help getting out into the world.
“There’s just so much to be gained from it. Socialization. Help in the house. Help to meet people and make new friends. Get out in the world, smell the flowers. There’s no downside as far as I can tell, There’s absolutely no downside,” she said.
Goldman said she hopes to get the word out about NORC @ JFCS because she believes the benefits are well worth the cost, and she doesn’t want to see her fellow older adults stop enjoying life.
“We can still make new friends even in our 70s and 80s. We can still learn new things in our 70s and 80s,” she said. “There’s nothing that can stop us if we have the right frame of mind, and with the NORC group, we can get there.”
Contact 215-320-0351 for more information.