Sustaining Your Program
A Friendly Community for All
Along with stable funding sources, a sustainable NORC program is one that keeps drawing in fresh blood and building new relationships, as it gradually becomes woven into the fabric of the community.
Intergenerational programming is one of the tools Deepdale CARES uses to build broad-based interest. Most of its activities are open to anyone, regardless of age – younger people are welcome to watch movies and participate in exercise classes and other scheduled events. A flea market draws in residents throughout the apartment complex. And students struggling with reading, math, and English as a second language have turned to senior residents for tutoring.
“We felt that for the coop board to maintain its commitment, we needed to engage more of the community,” said the Y's Karen Schwab. “We look for opportunities to accommodate younger people.”
The goal is also to foster appreciation among middle-aged people for the value of the NORC program in their midst. “Our only hope of maintaining the NORC program is to get people who are now in their 50s interested, because they will eventually be in their 60s,” said Ms. Schwab. “The next generation needs to know what a NORC is even if they don’t need services yet.”
Reaching out to the neighborhood merchants and other community institutions is another way Deepdale CARES works at becoming known, and having an enduring impact. Senior art projects are displayed in the local bank. The supermarket and bagel shop carry flyers about NORC program activities. And the library stocks books that the book group has selected for its next reading.
“We work hard to create relationships, that’s part of how we raise awareness of the NORC program,” said Ms. Schwab. “Awareness is essential because you never know where your support is going to come from. I’m uncomfortable letting it come by chance, because by chance that support could end.”
Ultimately, the idea is for the NORC program to become embedded in the culture of the community, and to influence the way in which people relate to one another. “NORC programs change community and create community,” said Ms. Schwab. “If you have a friendly community, where everyone cares about everyone, seniors will be part of it. The NORC program can help make that happen.”
Stanley Levitt, 72, has seen that first-hand. A Deepdale resident since 1966, he barely knew his neighbors in the years before the NORC program was launched. “Now, it is like the good old days where you knew everyone on the block,” he said. “When you walk down the street it isn’t just hello, it’s hello by name. People recognize one another and are opening up.”
As people develop connections to their neighbors, they become more interested in them, and eventually develop a stronger sense of responsibility for them. At Deepdale, the NORC program professional staff helps guide that process, providing a structure so that people understand what they can do when they see a neighbor in need. But it is the residents themselves who do the work.
“Aging doesn’t stop at 5:00 or on weekends, when we are not here,” said Dale Chaikin, the community nurse. “We want to give people the tools to help each other.” As new ways of living are embedded into the Deepdale community, they become self-sustaining. It is a slow process, but over time norms can change. Specific services may not always be available, staff members may turn over, residents may move or die, but the strength of a caring community endures.