In 1986, Michael E. Hunt and Gail Gunter-Hunt published the paper* credited with coining the term Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs) – ‘housing developments that are not planned or designed for older people, but which, over time, come to house largely older people’.
In the US, NORCs occur throughout the Sun Belt (generally considered the southern third of the country). But many Rust Belt cities (from the Great Lakes to the upper Midwest States) are also forming a ‘gray belt’ as younger residents relocate and leave older ones behind. On the flip side, NORCs are also cropping up in denser cities, such as New York and Boston, in part due to their wealth of amenities and public transport links.
Although they may not be termed NORCs, these communities are just as recognisable elsewhere in the world. AARP International reported on the various housing solutions being piloted with Europe’s ageing population, while Japan is widely seen as a hospitable country for ageing ‘in place’, partly thanks to government policies that support older residents.
As increasing corporate development raises the cost of living in the Sun Belt, US retirees are moving to Mexico in large numbers because the country offers similar sunny weather, but with a lower price tag.
More than 30 years after the term was introduced, NORCs are still on the rise, and will keep shaping cities and rural areas for years to come.
*The Journal of Housing for the Elderly, vol 3, issue 3-4