Move in with a furry friend

The new homes which wel­come pets too

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

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

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