NORC offers many benefits

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) project began as a government-funded test project for seniors in 2004.

Over the years it has shown tremendous success as it has grown and adapted to meet the needs of the seniors living in a designated three-square mile area in Creve Coeur and unincorporated St. Louis County. The NORC is now “a permanent Jewish Federation program” and is holding its first membership drive to help underwrite their costs.

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The resident participants in the program set up the fee structure along with coming up with additional ways to fund the program through tax-deductible gifts, activity fees for some programs and tribute funds. The new membership program is $30 a year for an individual and $45 a couple.

NORC manager Karen Berry Elbert said it costs about $300,000 to run the program for a year according to the organization’s press release. In NORC’s January newsletter Elbert reported a great response to the membership drive with 298 memberships by Dec. 10. The cost for members to join is very low compared to other NORC programs around the country, said Elbert.

“The Detroit NORC charges more than $60 a month membership and provides very limited services,” Elbert said in a press release. “Indiana’s program charges $120 a year. Our residents are so fortunate to have a low membership fee for so many terrific benefits.”

Some of the many benefits of membership include: reduced Jewish Community Center membership fees, free monthly blood pressure screenings, free minor home repair, yard work and computer assistance, access to bus outings and resident run programs. Members also receive the NORC Advantage Card which includes many discounts to area restaurants and shops.

The program has shown great success in helping seniors remain independent. Ninety-four year old member Ida Seltzer remembered her frustration when she had to give up her car.

“It broke my heart to stop driving and give away my independence,” Seltzer said. “The NORC encourages me and helps me to stay in my own house so I don’t have to go to a nursing home.”

Socialization is a very important part of the NORC program. Members enjoy having a place to go and take classes, exercise, have discussions and visit with friends.

“Sometimes I get lonely and depressed and I think — 94, it’s enough,” Seltzer said. “When I am at the NORC, I am alive. It’s something to look forward to and I really appreciate it.”

For more information about the NORC, how to make a contribution or to join the NORC, contact Jacki Newfield at 314-442-3834 or e-mail [email protected]