NORCS (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) occur when a group of people have been living in the same building or community of buildings for so long that they have literally aged in place. New York City provides funding for supportive services in NORCS, such as assistance with health care management, social activities, access to government resources and health promotion activities. Some examples are Columbus Park Towers at 100 West 94th St.; St. Martin’s Tower at 65 West 90th St.; Stryker’s Bay at 689 Columbus Avenue; and the Penn-South Co-op in Chelsea.
In addition to these official NORCs, there is a unique organization on the Upper West Side where seniors help seniors to help each other: Bloomingdale Aging in Place (BAiP). It functions in some similar ways to a NORC, benefiting over the past few years from a small annual grant from the Manhattan Borough President’s office.
In 2009 it was founded by members of two adjacent block associations: the West 102nd and West 103rd Street Block Association and the West 104th Street Block Association. It now covers an area of the Upper West Side from West 96th Street to West 110th Street and Riverside Drive to Central Park West. BAiP is an all-volunteer organization whose mission is to help older adults lead healthy, connected and vital lives as their needs change. Its primary goal is to build community so that older adults have a nearby social network as they age in place. They have a neighbor-to-neighbor program to assist with friendly visits to the homebound or ill, help with errands, and escort those who need it to medical and other appointments. Many BAiP members currently volunteer with the organization, benefiting their own health and well-being by experiencing how important it is to care about and help each other, which is a great way to stay engaged, healthy and involved in one’s community.
BAiP has numerous group activities also. It has 35 ongoing groups and about 100 activities throughout the year. There are panel discussions on topics of interest to seniors such as caregiving, elder law, Medicare and Social Security. They also sponsor social events such as occasional neighborhood dinners and outings to museums, shows and concerts, plus numerous activities such as ping pong, yoga, tai chi, cycling, walking, art, watercoloring, stitchery, drama and reading and writing groups. They also maintain a list of neighborhood services such as hair cutters, housekeeping services, painters and carpenters, all recommended by BAiP members for BAiP members.
I became involved with BAiP through ping pong, a game I played as a teenager and took up again as a senior citizen. It’s been wonderful, and if I were interested in juggling, I could do that, too.
One more terrific organization on the Upper West Side is DOROT, located at 171 W. 85th St. DOROT is a leader in aging services and volunteerism. The staff will run through the programs with anyone who calls, or an appointment can be made by calling 212-769-2850. DOROT provides in-home services for the frail elderly, including home delivered frozen meals. There are also wellness programs, shopping and escorting services, arts and culture and holiday celebrations.