New business wants to put smart technology in seniors’ hands

Ambient Home, a new company headquartered in Adams County, has released its smart home technology for senior living communities, with the goal of making it easier for residents to live comfortably and independently.

The innovative platform integrates a variety of smart devices, such as temperature control systems, voice assistants, lighting and locks, and unites them into a single application. Seniors control the platform through voice commands, a mobile app or a switch flip or key. Residents can also share access, allowing family members or facility staff to assist them with select devices.

John Gallo, chief operating officer of Ambient Home, said in a phone interview that what makes the system different is the shared access.

He said the New Oxford-based company, which formed last April but is fully launching now, has so far done one demo for a local senior living community.

Ambient Home plans to focus on central Pennsylvania first – with its plethora of retirement communities and national headlines promoting it as a retirement destination.

“It’s fantastic,” Gallo said of the area. Central Pennsylvania “is definitely a prime place to start” a business of this type.

He and CEO Alex Louderback complement each other, Gallo said. Louderback is a programmer by nature, and Gallo has the business and marketing bona fides, including an MBA from York College.

“At Ambient Home, our goal is to help facilities provide seniors with the highest quality of life possible,” Louderback said in a release. “Our innovative smart home technology aims to revolutionize the senior living industry by providing a safe, comfortable and connected experience for seniors.”

Ambient Home is committed to meeting the needs of the region’s – and country’s – increasing senior population through its cutting-edge technology and top-notch technical support.

“We support both residents and staff with training and technical support to ensure everyone can use the platform to better the lives of residents,” Gallo added in the release.

“Our goal is to help seniors leverage technology to help them stay safe and maintain their freedom.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Senior living community retools projects following the pandemic

The pandemic caused New Oxford-based Cross Keys Village — The Brethren Home to pause two major projects at its senior living facilities to focus on slowing the spread of the virus in its communities.

What the retirement community learned as it retooled its spaces for its residents went back into the projects when they resumed weeks later.

In February 2020 the Adams County community unveiled three 10-model buildings it will building on 319 acres in New Oxford. Shortly after starting construction on the Hearthside homes, Gov. Tom Wolf called for a pause on most construction projects in mid-March.

Cross Keys Village was also nearing completion on its designs for new features to its Harmony Ridge building, including a new theater, arts gallery, wellness center and restaurant.

The organization has finished five of its Hearthside homes and is currently building out the new features for Harmony Ridge. Before these projects could start, Cross Keys Village ensured that its current facilities met ever changing standards in the midst of the pandemic.

“We purchased and fabricated plastic barriers early on, we went through facility wide audits of square footage, we followed the CDC and Commonwealth’s guidelines and we looked at our HVAC systems to pump more fresh air into these areas,” said Jay Rohrbach, senior administrator at Cross Keys Village — The Brethren Home.

To protect their at-risk residents from contacting COVID-19, the senior living industry changed the way it designed spaces to mitigate spread, said William Sutton, vice president of Mechanicsburg-based Mowery, the company working on both Harmony Ridge and Hearthside.

“The way we think about queues of people, waiting and visitor areas, that was forever changed,” Sutton said. “While there wasn’t a ton of business, there was smaller work to be done like installing screens and signage.”

Mowery, a construction management firm, offers full service design and construction and works primarily with health care, senior housing and warehousing companies.

When Cross Keys Village chose to continue the construction of Hearthside, they worked alongside Mowery to install both online and on-site health checks and limit the number of workers operating in small corridors and near residents, something that the construction company has continued since.

Hearthside did not make many modifications to its original design save for the addition of hands-free doors and other small quality-of-life improvements. The facilities had no common spaces and are strictly residential homes, which made them perfect for post-COVID housing, Rohrbach said.

“We didn’t have to do as much as we thought,” he said. “We looked at it hard, we made some modifications, but we didn’t have to do a tremendous amount.”

The community has completed five of the Hearthside homes and will be looking to implement bipolar ionization at the five buildings. The technology, integrated into HVAC systems, removes harmful particles such as viruses from the air.

Cross Keys Village’s more recent project, Harmony Ridge, was more affected by the pandemic because it was created to be a public space for the community’s residents. Much of the project is incomplete, including a theater, arts gallery and wellness center. The dining venue has been put on hold.

“We were getting close to starting the project when the pandemic happened, but we hit pause,” said Rohrbach. “We kept going with the design work with our architect however we weren’t ready to put shovels in the ground.”

During the design phase, Cross Keys Village modified hardware and fixtures and updated some of the spaces to fit in with social distancing parameters. The building will also have bipolar ionization in its corridors and public spaces.