Thursday, September 18, 2014

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communitiess

Ronni Bennett writes on aging over at Time Goes By. She's the standard by which I judge elder blogging, and she sets a high bar.  On Monday, she wrote about aging in place, rounding out the conversation with the notion of Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities.

It's a lovely concept: high rise apartment buildings in NYC where the residents have aged in place. Everything can be delivered in NYC, at any time of the day or night.  Public transportation is readily available outside the front door; there's no need to have a car so it is no disaster when you're unable to drive. Repairs are handled by the building management. Everything is familiar, because you've lived there forever. 

Neighbors see newspapers in a pile outside an unopened-for-a-few-days-door.  A faltering step on the way to the mail room might prompt a comment by the doorman to a visiting relative.  It is community in the fullest sense of the word; un-intrusive but observant, ready to lend a hand. If only everyone could afford to live in New York City......

When I was in high school, my grandparents moved from their home on Hessler Avenue to The Butcher's Co-op on the oceanfront in Far Rockaway.  There were young families and retirees, the rent was reasonable and the location was gorgeous.  True, there was no place to walk for groceries, and the market within driving distance was peopled with sketchy characters who frightened me even at the height of my 20-something-I'm-invicible-ness.  It was described as a transitional neighborhood; that was a very kind description.

Within the pink buildings themselves, though, there was a thriving community.  We recognized faces in the elevator on our every-Sunday-visits. An occasional aunt or friend from the old neighborhood would move into the building, and Grandma and Grandpa would be sure to show us off to them when we met in the elevator.  It was the woman who lived next door who told Daddooooo that his mother was yelling obscenities from the balcony, who was worried that her neighbor might catch cold while she was scolding the sky.

I'm making a NORC right here in Tucson. With JannyLou and Fast Eddie next door, we installed a lighted pathway between our driveways. We all have keys and alarm codes for both houses. We share a cleaning lady and a masseuse and regular how-cheap-can-we-eat meals out on the town. We return garbage cans and pick up mail, along with the help of the new family on the other side. 

This is their "forever house," which is comforting. Those kids are useful for plant watering...ah, Christina.... and succulent covering and it turns out their mother goes to the same hair salon that I use. This may become useful if I can't drive myself; it won't feel burdensome to ask for a lift if she's headed that way already.

This has me thinking about Bubba's remark after spending a long weekday alone with the infant me and the silence that was a suburban New York neighborhood.  G'ma said that when she walked through the door Bubba thrust the baby (that would be me) into her arms before declaring that she didn't know how anyone could live out there. "You could die in the middle of the street and no one would come by for hours to find you."

Not here, I won't.  I have my NORC.


  1. It is wonderful to live in a neighborhood where you know your neighbors (at least some of them) have your back when you need it. Unfortunately, we moved from such a place, where we had lived for 31 years, last summer. The townhouse complex is very nice, and we like it here, but the majority of the residents are under 50 and couldn't care less about two 70-somethings living in their midst. Luckily, two of my three children are nearby and very solicitous of us. We are blessed in that respect, however, I can see a move to a one-floor plan in my not too distant future.

    1. Starting over is hard, isn't it? How lucky you are to have 2/3 of your offspring solicitously nearby <3

  2. I know my neighbors but we aren't in each others homes all of the time. The sisters to the south take care of the cats in the evenings when we are gone. But, I have a kritter sitter coming daily to feed and water the cats in the mornings. I stop the mail. The lawns can hold while we are away. The neighbor to the north has a cat that practically lives in our backyard so she brings over food when she will be away but takes the dog to a kennel. All of the other neighbors are of the waving variety even though I do know their names. I had to produce names and phone numbers of neighbors when I applied to be a school chaplain so they could be questioned about my neighborliness.

    1. And I'm sure they all gave you shining recommendations, dkzody <3
      My parents lived in a kid-centric, in and out of the houses neighborhood when I was growing up, but they were unsociable, and I don't remember anyone ever dropping in. We did rely on one another for emergencies, though. Someone was always breaking a bone and siblings needed caring. That was what I had in Marin, too. And, now that I think of it, I had it in Chicago as well.

      Maybe I'm just nosy?


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