Supportive Services Programs in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. Discussion

The literature on supportive services programs in NORCs is both thin and uneven. Much of it is purely descriptive, providing detailed pictures of individual programs, but lacking the consistency necessary for cross-site analysis. However, the literature we reviewed does provide a rich set of observations on which to base an analytical framework. Much of the literature focuses on NORCs based in multi-unit housing complexes, such as cooperatives, condominiums, and apartments, but recognizes the existence of other types, such as suburban or rural NORCs. The descriptions of supportive services programs provide examples of different organizational strategies and management that might foster the flexibility and responsiveness that program organizers argue is essential for success. The services available under the various programs are broadly similar, reflecting the core needs that characterize many aging populations as well as the diversity inherent in the age group. Finally, the paucity of information about outcomes points to an important area for program managers and policymakers to address.

Overall, the literature provides an understanding of the components that make up NORCs and the supportive services programs that seek to serve NORC residents. A common feature in the literature is a blurring of the line between the NORC itself, which is a community, and the NORC supportive services program, which serves that community. In the next section, we put the identified components of NORCs and their associated supportive services programs together to form a conceptual framework that clearly distinguishes between such communities and the programs that serve them, while emphasizing the dynamic nature of NORCs and the structure of their supportive services programs. We used this framework to explore the five AoA grantee programs and to point toward areas where policies might enhance the potential contributions of supportive services programs to successful aging in place.

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