AND FREDDIE CAME TOO… DOWNSIZING WITH PETS
By Ginetta Vedrickas
The pandemic has left many of us feeling isolated, but the company of a furry friend always helps, and in today’s new, age-exclusive developments they are more welcome than ever.
Jill Galvin wanted to downsize from her large house but, having owned 10-year old Löwchen Freddie since he was a puppy, she couldn’t imagine life without him: “I wanted to downsize whilst I still had choices, but my priority was Freddie.” Increasingly, age-exclusive developments now take pets, but Galvin found that many lacked space and amenities and she struggled to find development where Freddie’s needs would come first. On receiving a brochure for Audley’s Redwood scheme in Bristol, (where two-bedroom apartments start from £399,950) she knew it was ‘the one’: “It had a lovely picture of a Cockapoo on the front and it said, ‘move and bring the dog’ so that was it!”
Dogs keep us active
To make doubly sure, Galvin took Freddie with her on a viewing: “I wanted to see exactly how they treated dogs before deciding and they were great; Galvin chose her ground floor apartment with Freddie in mind. “He has access to open space and seems even happier here, but maybe it’s because I’m more relaxed.” In her early seventies, Galvin’s daily three-mile walks in Redwood’s fifteen acres of grounds keep them both fit: “He must be walked every day, which gets me out meeting friends with other dogs.” Freddie also keeps Galvin active in the wider community, as they visit schools where he helps boost confidence for nervous readers thanks to his placid nature. Redwood is dog- friendly, with poo bins provided throughout the grounds, and all ‘well-behaved’ pets are allowed, but owners and potential buyers must check with managers before getting a new animal.
Pet-friendly managers are a must
The Cinnamon Trust (the national charity that supports older people and their pets cinnamon.org.uk) still sees thousands of pet owners saying heart-breaking farewells on moving into retirement homes, which the charity deems unnecessary. Developments can apply – free of charge – to be included on its pet- friendly register, which rates them on facilities. “Developments featuring enclosed areas where animals can exercise off-lead, and those offering pet care should owners need it, rate highly”, says the Trust’s Donna Tucker, adding that a pet-friendly estate manager is key: “The winner of our ‘Pet-Friendly Retirement Housing of the Year Award’– Bishops Court in Devon, has the most amazing manager who helps care for pets in his own time if residents are incapacitated. He’s organised a walking group where residents with dogs, plus others without, meet up every day and go for a walk together, and they’ll also take any dogs whose owners are unable to go.”
Cognatum’s 60 age-exclusive developments across the UK are registered with The Cinnamon Trust, and pet owners are encouraged to register on moving in, in case illness prevents them from looking after their animals. “Often, neighbours provide back-up care, taking a dog for a walk, or popping in for feeding and companionship. There can be quite fierce offers and counteroffers of help; good neighbourliness is a strong feature of life in most age-exclusive communities.” Cognatum’s MD John Lavin.
Pets’ needs are a top priority
McCarthy & Stone’s marketing head, Geoff Bates says: “Questions about our pet-friendly policy now top the list for animal-owning potential buyers. It is our pleasure to explain that well-behaved pets are welcome in all of our developments, so residents can carry on enjoying their company during their retirement years.”
However, one resident at McCarthy & Stone’s Calico Court in Glossop, a Collie called Mucker, wasn’t always the best -behaved. Owner Richard Costello drew on his military career skills to train him, and it took six months before Mucker could be let off the lead, but today he’s a big part of the community says Costello: “Residents get together for a chat and a drink every Friday, and Mucker makes sure he is a member of the gang. He is such a friendly and approachable dog; he has even helped a lady resident who had a real fear of dogs.”
All species welcome
Pet owners should always check lease terms before buying, to see if species or breed restrictions apply. Retirement developer Platinum Skies recognises that the UK is a pet-loving nation and even reptiles are allowed. Head of wellbeing, Barbara Cox explains: “You can bring your tortoise through to your toy poodle.” Platinum Skies helped Glenda Doust sell her three-bedroom house and moved her possessions and Yorkshire Terrier Charlie into her new apartment at Monterey, Christchurch in Dorset: “Charlie has been my companion for the past 18 years, so when I was looking to downsize, it was essential I found somewhere pet-friendly.” The pair are now happily settled: “Charlie is one of a few four-legged friends here, including a Chihuahua and some Dachshunds, and there’s a couple of cats. Platinum Skies’ open pet policy is part of what gives Monterey such a lovely, friendly atmosphere.” Shared ownership apartments start from £132,500.
Free eggs and honey
Pet owners often prefer ground-floor apartments, but Durrants Village in West Sussex offers both apartments and cottages starting from £330,000. Chief officer Tom Lord is creating a true ‘village atmosphere’ which includes some novel approaches: “We are looking for opportunities to work with local beekeeping associations to place hives within the grounds, and perhaps one day we can even make our own honey,” says Lord, who also recently introduced allotments: “This gave us the idea of putting chickens in there too. Chickens would make a great addition, with residents volunteering to look after them, and – importantly getting the free eggs.” Owners are allowed their own pets but will soon welcome communal animals too adds Lord: “We are exploring ideas including a 100-bird aviary, a loft for racing pigeons and a village dog.”