More and more developments are allowing residents to bring their four-legged friends with them, but how do you go about finding the right pet-friendly retirement scheme for you? Report by JANE SLADE

Pets can save older people from loneliness, help them maintain a healthy life, and assist with making friends but just because a retirement village says it welcomes pets it does not mean is pet friendly.

“One of our main purposes is to enable older people and their pets to stay together and if they want to move to make sure they can take their pet with them,” says Averil Jarvis, the CEO of the pet charity the Cinnamon Trust.

“A pet is a heartbeat in the home. Someone to wake up with, go to sleep with, someone to talk to and someone who needs you. If you have a pet you are wanted and needed.”

However she cautions that many developments designed for older people are not always pet-friendly retirement schemes. “So we go and inspect them. We have a register of the top 500 care homes and sheltered housing schemes and star rate them.”

Paddy Brice, managing director of Richmond Villages, says: “Richmond Villages fully appreciates the important role pets play in people’s lives. The companionship pets provide is invaluable. Across all five of our retirement villages, we have a number of pets in residence. If an owner’s mobility is causing difficulty with dog-walking or attending veterinary appointments, assistance will be arranged.”

Richard Burrows, the owner of Danny House, a stunning retirement home in Hassocks, West Sussex has more ‘pets’ than residents. “We have 300 ewes, five rams, eight pigs, 14 chickens, one Welsh collie dog and one pussy cat,” he boasts. Richard is pictured at the top with one of his rams.

“We do encourage residents with apartments that have direct access to the gardens to bring their own pets, but if they don’t have a pet they can take the pleasure from ours, without having the long term responsibility.”

In the summer the residents help bottle feed the lambs and the more active ones help with rounding up the sheep at shearing time.

“Having animals around is a great benefit to the residents. Most of them had pets when they were younger but now find it too big a responsibility now. Communal pets is a solution and brings everyone joy.”

The Hanover Housing Association, providers of rental and owner-occupier retirement accommodation welcome pets at all its 634 estates. “Pets offer valued companionship and research suggests pet ownership can also offer a range of therapeutic and health benefits, including low stress levels and reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes,” says Tony Tench Retirement Housing and Property Director.

“We actively welcome pets. In fact, being pet-friendly is one of our selling points and we very rarely turn away a pet.”

Nick Sanderson, the chief executive of Audley Retirement Villages says: “Knowing that you can bring your pet is often one of the most important and reassuring aspects for potential buyers. We have always welcomed pets as they are often part of the family and a much loved companion.”

At McCarthy & Stone, managers like to meet pets before they move in as Ali Crossley, Executive Director explains: “Generally homeowners are welcome to bring one domesticated, common household pet when they move into one of our retirement developments, although we always consider every request on an individual basis and like to meet each pet beforehand.”

Tips for pet-owning retirees

1. Ensure you have a lease that lets you keep a dog or a cat and buy another if it dies.

2. Ensure there is plenty of space where you can walk your dog.

3. Include provision for your pet in your will and make sure you leave it with someone who wants it.

4. Consider private health insurance as vet’s bills can be expensive.

5. Ensure there is a vet close by.