In June 2013, members of the Penn South Program for Seniors (PSPS) joined friends and neighbors to sing, dance, perform monologues and group sketches, and otherwise publicly showcase their talents at the Hudson Guild Theatre in New York City. This talent show launched a monthlong display of visual artworks, The Second Acts Gallery Exhibit, also created by PSPS members.
The talent show is but one of many activities engaged in by older residents of Penn South, the first officially recognized Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC, in the nation. Penn South is a limited-equity cooperative in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, built by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union in the 1950s to accommodate the affordable housing needs of 2,820 moderate-income families, many of whom were garment workers. As the children of these families grew up and moved away, many of the adults stayed. By 1985, more than 75 percent of Penn South households had a member who was aged 60 or older.1 Increasingly, older residents were asking co-op management for assistance “with problems such as inability to read or understand paperwork received from the co-op, losing keys several times and going to the security office for help, or simply wandering and being unable to find their apartment. Some people forgot to pay their monthly charges.”2
Although their needs had changed, most Penn South senior residents preferred to age in their homes rather than move to an assisted living community or a nursing home. As a result, the Penn South co-op board implemented PSPS, a prototypical NORC SSP now replicated in many localities.3 A separate nonprofit organization, Penn South Social Services, was established and charged with sponsoring comprehensive services that enable elderly residents to stay in their homes and avoid nursing home placement. The PSPS program offers social and health services, educational and cultural programs, trips and holiday celebrations, recreational and exercise classes, referrals for legal and mental health services, and care coordination, all in the interest of wellness and wellbeing in later years. A recently added amenity, Home Organized Personal Services, offers steep discounts on products and services classified as out-of-pocket expenses not covered by insurance, such as eyeglasses, home health aides, and hearing aids.4
- Kathryn Lawler. 2001. “Aging in Place: Coordinating Housing and Health Care Provision for America’s Growing Elderly Population,” Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation.
- PENNSOUTHLIVE. 2011. “About PSPS.” Accessed 9 September 2013.
- A 2010 survey of NORCs by B. J. Bedney et al. reported in “Aging in place in naturally occurring retirement communities,” Journal of Housing for the Elderly 24, 304–21, identified 84 operational NORC Supportive Services Programs.
- PENNSOUTHLIVE. 2011. “About PSSS.” Accessed 9 September 2013.
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