If you plan to retire at home (age in place), new information in a report from the Gerontological Society of America indicates that your connectedness to your community can have a meaningful impact on your health and well-being as you get older.

The report focuses on New York’s Naturally Occurring Retirement Community Supportive Service Program (NORC SSP), which I mentioned in a blog post several months ago. NORCs (unplanned communities that emerge “naturally” when the majority of residents have reached retirement age) are different from NORC SSPs in that one precedes the other. Once an NORC is identified, an NORC SSP can be established to provide resources to the residents.

As noted in the Gerontological Society’s report, when the NORC SSP model was introduced in 1986, “. . . It brought together health care and social supports, recognizing that both were necessary as people age. Ahead of its time, the NORC-SSP model was an early example of a ‘place-based’ program. It brought together service delivery and community-building efforts. Rather than just focusing on reacting to individuals in crisis—‘one hip fracture at a time’—it recognized that the community itself plays an important role in how residents aged.”

In NORC SSPs, residents play an active role within the community that changes are their needs do. This connection “creates supportive community structures that evolve with age.”

As the report noted, the community you live in, and your connections within that community, can determine the quality of your life in retirement. This was found to be especially true in times of crisis. For example, during heat waves, older residents tend to die at a much higher rate than younger people because they are isolated and disconnected from the community. When residents are actively engaged with and known to their neighbors, they can enjoy a safer and healthier life in retirement.

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