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There is this phenomenon called a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC).  For the past 5 years, I’ve been living in one on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  It turns out, many in my NORC are women of a certain age. One of my grocery stores offers “Senior Discounts” on Thursdays and there is no problem finding grab bars, walkers, canes or compression stockings.

“A naturally occurring retirement community (NORC; /nɔːrk/) is a term used to describe a community that has a large proportion of residents over 60 but was not specifically planned or designed to meet the needs of seniors living independently in their homes.”

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TTN group

Not long after I moved to Manhattan about 3 years ago, I joined The Transition Network, a national organization of women with chapters all over the country for women over 50 years old (www.thetransitionnetwork.org). Its primary purpose is to offer women “in transition” (from widowhood, divorce, a change of jobs, retirement, a move, etc.) a way to meet other women through peer groups or special interest groups created around a shared interest.

I am a member of several peer groups now and have met quite a few women (many are widows as well). Our groups typically meet in one or another person’s apartment in the evening for 2 hours for appetizers or dinner and wine. We talk about topics that are either proposed growing out of current events or seem to come spontaneously from the fact that as women we are encountering some similar experiences growing older in New York City. Some of us also get together ay other times to go out for dinner, the movies, the theater, opera or just to take walks in Central Park on nice afternoons to collect our wits.  Not everyone I’ve met will be my BFF, but I can appreciate that everyone is an interesting person and I try hard to be tolerant of eccentricities.

The prevailing wisdom about aging is that we need social contact to age both gracefully and with a degree of contentment. I know TTN has chapters in many cities throughout the USA and also has a relatively modest membership given the enormous benefit they offer. I would check them out.

I am in my mid-60’s now and have no problem getting up on a ladder to change a lightbulb, if necessary.  However, I’m thinking ahead to when I may be in my 80’s, and, possibly, still living in my new apartment.  Therefore, I’m trying to make far-sighted decisions about how it’s laid out or furnished that will make sense when my mobility will be much more limited and my bones much more fragile.

So it was interesting today to visit a lighting showroom in Manhattan to pick out lights for the kitchen ceiling, the insides of 3 closets and the ceiling in what is becoming my little laundry center in what used to be the maid’s bathroom.

For anyone reading this who has not bought a new lighting fixture recently, you may be surprised to find that incandescent bulbs might as well be relics from the Jurassic Period. They are hard to find in new fixtures.

Because of the concrete beams in the ceiling, it made sense to flush mount the kitchen ceiling fixtures instead of recessing them.  Of the various flush-mounted fixtures, there was only one I could find that would have enough light (75 watts from a halogen bulb), be relatively streamlined in appearance and, most important to me, have an easy-to-remove (I hope) collar and glass cover that was not too heavy to hold as you were standing on a ladder trying to get it off.  Honestly, I think removing anything over your head is tricky business.  Then I learned that the 75 watt halogen bulb it uses has to be handled with a tissue so your hand doesn’t overheat one portion of the bulb.  All of this while you’re poised precariously on a ladder.

Access to the 75 watt halogen bulb (which has to be handled with a tissue so the bulb maintains an even temperature!) in this new kitchen ceiling fixture is accessed by pulling down on the stainless collar.

The lights for the ceiling in the 3 closets also promises to be a challenge, thanks to a relatively recent change in the NYC Building Code that requires lights in closets to be covered.  I didn’t want to spend much on these closet fixtures.   My choice was between glass-covered fixtures that either pulled down or unscrewed.  After some internal debate with my equilibrium, I opted for the screw driver approach on these fixtures that take a 75 watt florescent bulb.

Closet light has screws on the collar to hold the glass.

Finally, there was the ceiling fixture for the laundry room, also a good 9′ above the floor.  The winner was simply the last fixture standing as I eliminated ones that were expensive, were difficult to access or didn’t provide at least 100 watts of light.  (I debated whether I even wanted to see the stains that didn’t get removed from my new energy efficient washing machine that uses less water.)

Laundry room fixture selected pulls down for access.

The moral of this story is simply that, even with my best intentions to buy easy-to-access ceiling lights, I bought ones that are going to be hard to maintain. I have the new standards of energy efficiency and the new changes to the NYC Building Code to thank for all of this.  I long for the days of the Sylvania 60 watt flood lights, in high hat ceiling fixtures, in my old kitchen and sockets with light bulbs in closets.  Just stick your hand up and unscrew them.

I’m not sure if the writers of all these new standards had the elderly in mind who, I think, run the risk of more falls as they try to access and manipulate all these new types of bulbs and covered fixtures.

I guess I’ll just have to keep the super’s number by the phone for any bulb-changing.