What happens when a whole block gets older at the same time? “Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities,” known as NORCs, sometimes compel the city to bring the services to the seniors.
The Baruch Elders Services Team, known as BEST, a program on Manhattan’s Lower East Side run by Grand Street Settlement, helps some 3,000 seniors living in nearby low-income housing — and the volume of local seniors streaming through the doors increases monthly, administrators say.
As New York City becomes increasingly diverse, these NORCs present particular challenges, said Bobbie Sackman, the Director of Public Policy at the Council of Senior Centers and Services of New York City.
“How do you make it culturally competent?” Sackman said. “I mean, you have some senior centers where there are four languages spoken, so they have to have staff or people translating for them. I think they must celebrate every holiday imaginable, and all kinds of food. But they really become a welcoming community, and when you’re not isolated, you’re going to stay healthy.”
The point, Sackman explained, is to help seniors stay in their own homes.
“Sometimes I think it’s treated as if somebody woke up and they were 85, and ‘what are we going to do with them?’” Sackman said. “Obviously that’s not true… That person you’re looking at, who’s 85 or 90 now, was 30. And whatever their dreams are now, they’re still alive — and so they have as much right to dignity and whatever it takes to keep them home safely as anybody else does.”