Move in with a furry friend
The new homes which welcome pets too
There was a moving moment at Crufts this year, when television presenter Clare Balding fought back tears as a family talked about how they would react when the time came to put down their old dog. Losing a pet can be devastating, so it’s no wonder that many pet owners will refuse to move to a retirement development that doesn’t accept them. Some will even put their pet’s accommodation needs before their own.
Retirement house builders are capitalising on this and offering special services and features designed to attract pets. Richmond Villages has introduced a pet-care service at its new development in Witney. This was a lifesaver for retired hotel receptionist Beryl Evans when she had to visit her husband John in hospital, and needed someone to look after their six-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel.
“The staff were wonderful,” says Evans, 78. “They took care of Sophie whenever I went to visit John, so I didn’t have to worry.
“We moved here so we could have a ground floor apartment with outside access for Sophie and be close to lovely walks.
“She has settled in so well and because she is well behaved I can take her into the communal areas. I wouldn’t be without her. There are two other dog owners who we meet up with so we have made friends through her too.” Apartments at this development start from £225,000 (01993 627355; richmond-villages. com).
A number of studies have shown that pets are vital to the happiness of older people, and they can help to reduce high blood pressure and relieve anxiety, as well as encouraging exercise. Pet ownership has also been shown to increase levels of survival of people with cardiac problems: a study showed that 94 per cent of heart patients with dogs survive heart attacks, compared with 72 per cent without.
Peggy Zive, 85, bought a onebed apartment on the top floor of Retirement Villages’ Charters Village in East Sussex precisely because it suited George, her pet parrot.
“He’s the love of my life,” she says. “I chose this apartment because it’s open-plan. There’s lots of space for him if I let him out of his cage and it has big windows with lovely views he can enjoy.”
Zive, a widow, sold her bungalow in Haywards Heath three years ago, and moved to be near her daughter. “I would never have come if I couldn’t have brought George,” her 23-year-old African Grey.
He gives Zive more than companionship and affection – he can offer conversation too. “Everyone loves George – my friends come to see him more than me so we are very popular. He loves to dance and sing, and is always talking,” she says. “He will say ‘chop chop’ if I am not being quick enough; tell me when he’s hungry and what he wants to eat; but he can be very naughty too.”
Charters Village in East Grinstead is a pet-centric community for over 65s with a 60-bed nursing home on site. A one-bedroom flat starts from £375,000 (01372 383950; retirementvillages.co.uk).
“It is the best place for George and me because we need never be parted as all the care I need is on site,” says Zive. “I have also made provision for George in case he outlives me, which he probably will.”
Retirement Villages welcomes pets into all 14 of its developments – as long as they are well-behaved – and
‘Owning a dog, cat or even a parrot can be an enormously beneficial experience’
some even offer services such as dog-walking and pet sitting.
“Owning a dog, cat or even a parrot can be an enormously beneficial experience in later life,” says Retirement Villages chief executive Nigel Welby. “It helps residents stay physically and mentally active, and enjoy a great social life too. We design our villages to include fields and prepared walks so that pets can be exercised.”
Other developers enhancing their pet-friendly features include Audley Retirement, which offers extensive grounds with paths for dog walkers in all its villages, with its newest development Chalfont Dene allowing cat flaps. A one-bedroom apartment starts from £635,000 (0800 178 6336; audleyretirement.co.uk).
PegasusLife’s new country clubstyle development for people over 60, Wildernesse near Sevenoaks in Kent, will offer a dog-walking and petsitting services when completed later this year. An apartment there starts from £925,000, with mews houses available for £735,000 (01962 710700; pegasuslife.co.uk).
In some retirement homes, the pets are as much part of the community as the people. At a Hanover Housing development, there is one pet owner with two famous dogs. Retired social worker Gwen Davies owns two celebrity dogs; Betty, a lhasa apso, which has starred in EastEnders, and Harpic, a cairn terrier which has appeared on Strictly Come Dancing.
Davies, 86, rents a one-bedroom flat in Pentlow Hawke Close, an estate of 36 properties in Haverhill in Suffolk. “I wouldn’t have chosen the flat for myself as it is very small, but it suited the dogs as I can let them out easily,” she says. “I take them out five times a day.
“Their first walk is 5.30 in the morning and last at midnight; I can walk them into town on footpaths without passing any cars so it’s very safe. They are very popular and even go to afternoon tea in the owner’s lounge without me.”
Hanover Housing, which offers properties for rent and sale to the over 55s on over 600 estates in Britain, has received an RSPCA award for its contribution to improving animal welfare. A onebedroom flat at Pentlow Hawke is from £466 per month (01480 475069; hanover.org.uk).
There’s a chance for those without pets to spend some time with furry friends: at Wadswick Green retirement village in Wiltshire, some residents are setting up their own petsitting service.
Chief executive Richard Williams says they are “planning to set up an informal network so they can enjoy the benefits of having a pet, as well as helping out their neighbours at the same time.” A new phase of 45 twoand three-bedroom apartments is being launched soon (0800 302 9823; wadswickgreen.co.uk).
The development’s pet-friendly ethos has been an important selling point for its owners.
“Sharing my home with Jendy is like having kids – I couldn’t imagine moving without him,” says Sheila Jennings, a resident at the development, of her three-year-old labradoodle. “I can quite honestly say that if Wadswick Green didn’t allow pets, it would have been a deal breaker.”
‘My dog is like family to me and I couldn’t imagine moving without him’
Grand: Wildernesse by PegasusLife offers dog-walking and pet sitting, left; Gwen Davis with her dogs Betty and Harpic, main
Beryl Evans with Sophie, her cavalier King Charles spaniel, who lives with her in a Richmond Villages home
Pet-friendly: Richmond Villages, top; Wadswick Green, above; Peggy Zive with her parrot George, below