Over the past forty years, something new has taken root on the former Lok Group farm southeast of Palmyra.
The village of Londonderry – founded in the late 1970s as the House of the Brethren in the Lebanon Valley – is no longer owned by the Brethren Church, but has chosen to be affiliated with it due to its continued association with the beliefs of its founders.
“There is an atmosphere on this campus of volunteering and giving back to the community and philanthropy,” Londonderry Village President Jeff Sheriman said in an interview with LebTown.
Sherman said that since the home opened in 1979, she hasn’t asked anyone to leave because health care has run out of money, and instead has found ways to support her care.
“There is definitely a difference in the atmosphere here compared to other retirement communities
The campus was originally constructed with 100 nursing units and 40 residential units, and is today home to approximately 565 people, most of whom lead independent lives, and are cared for by a staff of around 200.
Londonderry Village is now embarking on a multi-year, multi-million dollar project to expand its community to serve an even larger population. For the past 15 years, the organization has been planting seeds to expand its operation south on land previously leased to farmers. On that land, Londonderry Village will build Fox Run, a multi-phase development that will significantly expand the seniors community’s ability to provide ongoing care in a way that matches the evolving tastes of the emerging elderly population.
“We’re ready to expand,” Shereman said.
Fox Run will eventually add about 110 residences to the south campus of Londonderry Village.
The Fox Run project was initially drawn around 2007-08, but it ran into limitations with sanitation capacity in North Londonderry Township at that time. This may have ended up being a good thing, Sherman said, due to the recession that soon followed, reducing the ability of potential residents to sell their homes and move in.
Londonderry Village acted as the focal point and instead built an apartment building that was in very high demand, and sold out even before it opened. About three or four years ago, Shereman said, the village of Londonderry pulled the idea of developing the southern campus off the shelf and started planning again.
While the planning and approval process took longer than expected, a positive side effect was that the county reviewed stormwater and utility plans for all three planned phases of the project, so the second and third phases should entail a simpler approval process.
Although Sherman says there is already interest in Phase Two, the focus is now entirely on Phase One, a $20-25 million expansion that will see the addition of 35 units — seven single-family residences, two homes with two units each, and two mixed-use apartment buildings. With 12 units each.
The first phase “The Pocket Neighborhood” is centered around a communal green space, with a lane access of alleys behind the buildings. “What green spaces do is encourage more socialization,” Shereman said, noting that particularly during the pandemic, the importance of outdoor spaces has become very clear.
Hybrid condominiums combine the advantages of traditional farmhouses and group living. Each apartment includes a minimum of two different compass exposures, natural light maximization, and a retractable garage.
There are other design changes between the new Fox Run development and existing designs for Londonderry Village. Sherman said the focus groups were conducted with people on the community’s waiting list because the “baby-boomer” generation has different wants and desires than the previously recognized population.
The focus group revealed that today’s incoming residents want the most space possible, as well as finishes like granite countertops, vinyl floors, stainless-steel appliances, and larger garages, Sherman said. Londonderry Village incorporated these ideas into plans for Fox Run, designed by SFCS Architects.
One of the things that distinguishes Londonderry Village’s independent living options from other retirement communities is that as a continuing care facility, Londonderry Village can adapt its offerings to residents as their needs change. “If and when your circumstances change, there are options,” Shereman said.
The minimum age in Londonderry Village is 62, but residents in the 80s or 90s also moved to independent living. There is a safety net in the event of a stroke or dementia that reduces residents’ ability to care for themselves, keeping them in the place they now call home.
One example of such options is moving into one of the Green House facilities in Londonderry Village, an alternative to the traditional nursing home design where the institutional nature is much less frequent.
Although Green Houses in Londonderry Village are licensed and regulated as nursing homes, they are home to only 10 residents and do not have a traditional nursing station. Instead, residents keep their own room and full private bathroom within a 7,000- to 8,000-square-foot farmhouse, featuring an open plan living/dining room and kitchen on site.
Londonderry Village is the only Green House community in Pennsylvania, and operates six of the 400 or so green houses located nationwide.
During the pandemic, Sherman said, the concept has fared particularly well due to the low number of employees moving through the facility, where nurses typically work in the same house day in and day out.
Sherman also said that Londonderry Village is working to offer more home care.
Perhaps the biggest limitation to these options at present is finding employees. Londonderry Village had to temporarily close two green houses earlier this year due to staffing issues. One facility is expected to reopen later this summer, and the other will be offline until the fall as the opportunity is used to give the facility a new look.
Although healthcare in general is labour-intensive, the Londonderry Village experience offers a unique opportunity to get to know people in a manner that is not feasible in outpatient or acute care. This may be part of the reason why Londonderry Village has been so successful in hiring so far this year at a time when many healthcare workers have been exhausted. So far this year, the village of Londonderry has hired 34 people, Sherman said, compared to 40 in a typical calendar year.
“With long-term care, we get to know our folks over the course of weeks, months, or even decades,” Shereman said. “We’ve had a couple in their independent apartment for 30 years.”
Although one downside is that the grief is a bit deeper than you might find in other types of health care, it’s a rich experience getting to know the population, Shereman said.
“Some of them were everywhere and did everything.”
Sherman said Londonderry Village already has some pre-sales for the first phase, and with the funding in place, construction will begin once the site has been excavated and the roads graded. Arthur Funk & Sons will be the general contractor for the project, as they have done on several Londonderry Village projects in the past.
“They are very good at getting projects done on time and within budget,” Shereman said.
Sherman expects audiences to see “dirt flying and concrete falling” within two months.
Unlike many projects currently under construction, Shereman said this project should be relatively insulated from supply chain stresses, as Londonderry Village had previously purchased timber, windows and other materials for the first phase about a year ago and stored it on campus.
Shireman and the Londonderry Village Board of Directors will gauge consumer response to Phase One as they refine plans for Phase Two and Three.
“We offer a variety of options,” Sherman said. “If one of these things is sold or not, it will likely change our designs in Phase Two.”
At present, it is planned that the second phase will have more single family and residential homes than the first phase.
In Lebanon boycott, Sherman said, it may be difficult to get people to pre-sign the project, even though there has already been interest in reversing for phase two. However, once construction begins, Sherman said the village of Londonderry inevitably sells out before it’s finished.
“We get a lot of calls, but until we start pushing the dirt, people are reluctant to log in,” Shereman said.
For more information on Fox Run, visit FoxRunAtLV.org.
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