Asbury Doubles Technology Expenditures, Could Soon Pilot a Robot

Asbury Communities, one of the largest senior living nonprofits in the U.S. has ramped up its technology investments in an effort to attract the incoming wave of baby boomers over the next decade. If all goes according to plan, visitors to an Asbury community may soon be greeted by a robot named Pepper.

Frederick, Maryland-based Asbury is currently conducting four technology pilot programs in its seven senior housing communities located in four states. The organization has doubled its expenditures for technology since last year, though leaders with Asbury didn’t give exact figures on how much it currently spends.

The effort is part of CEO Doug Leidig’s plan to position the operator to better attract older adults in the coming years, according to Asbury’s Chief Strategic Alliances Officer, Sandy Lawson.


“He’s really put an emphasis on the resident that will be coming to us over the next seven to 10 year period … and what role is technology is going to play in meeting the needs of those residents,” Lawson told Senior Housing News.

Among Asbury’s ongoing pilot programs are:

  • An enhanced mobility program at Bethany Village, a senior living community in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. The pilot — a partnership between VirtuSense Technologies and Asbury’s Integrated Technologies subsidiary — uses 3-D sensors and software to assess residents’ fall risk by measuring gait, balance and leg strength.
  • A telemedicine pilot at Wilson Health Care Center in Gaithersburg, Maryland. This pilot has already shown a reduction in hospital readmissions, with a “significant number” of acute episodes treated onsite, according to Asbury.
  • Utilization of SoftBank Robotics’ Pepper robot through a partnership with senior living services giant Sodexo, which is Asbury’s contract management company for dining and facilities management services. Sodexo this year gave the robot to Asbury for testing, free of charge.
  • New collaboration between Asbury Home Services and the Maryland State Department of Health collaboration on an initiative dubbed Community for Life. While still in its early planning stages, the pilot is aimed at combining virtual monitoring technologies with face-to-face engagement and support for seniors aging in place, regardless of their income level.

Visitors to Asbury’s headquarters — or the Asbury Support and Collaboration Center, as the provider calls it — can even view some of these tech pilots in action. For example, they can interact with Pepper by asking it questions or telling it to dance with the end goal of “training” the jovial robot to work in resident-facing settings, such as in reception areas. If all goes according to plan, Pepper may soon find itself in an Asbury community by the end of May, where it can begin to listen to residents and record their questions for later analysis.


“[Using Pepper] could lead to changes in our signage, such as where we are confusing people because we’re not identifying something,” Lawson said. “It will be interesting to see what we learn about ourselves as we study what questions get asked to Pepper.”

While the overall effort is preparing Asbury to better meet future residents’ preferences, there is yet another, perhaps more important concept at work: improving current residents’ quality of life.

“We’re trying to look at what will improve the quality of life for our residents,” Lawson said. “If you can prevent a fall for even one resident, that’s huge, that’s game-changing.”

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