Urbanist and Simon Fraser University’s Director of the City Program Andy Yan introduced me to the expression “NORC” which stands for “Naturally Occurring Retirement Community”. A NORC is any neighbourhood or area where a groups of folks over 60 years of age choose to reside. Patrick Sisson with Curbed.com points out that as the baby boom generation ages, they are rewriting where they are going to live. Instead of farms or small towns, this group values walkable urban centres. In a survey of 1,000 respondents across the United States, seniors wanted a walkable neighbourhood, low crime rates, and to be close to families.
R.D. Merrill, a company that develops senior residences in the United States has found that while they have been building large campuses outside of town and city centres for older folks, that is not where their residents want to be. President Bill Pettit stated “We were creating these islands of old age where you’re surrounded by your peers and you lose that intergenerational connectivity. We found we were spending a disproportionate period of time busing our seniors to other places to generate that intergenerational connectivity.”
The company has now changed its homing strategy, pursuing development sites in areas with high walkability close to shops and services. With current seniors physically aging more slowly and staying active, they will impact housing form, and the preferences of seniors and where those “NORCS” are located will guide further seniors oriented development.
A report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035 shows that the number of Americans over 80 will double, from 6 million to 12 million in the next two decades. By 2035, one out of three U.S. households will be headed by someone over 65. That number of seniors is more than twice the number of people currently living in Canada.