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    VIP guests at the opening of one of our five new extra care schemes tried their hands at Tai Chi during a tour of the impressive new facilities.

    Graham Gibbens, Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, and Cllr Julia Soyke, Deputy Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, were put through their paces by instructor Theresa Draper.

    VIPs at the Bowles Lodge openingEarlier they had been joined by our own Chief Executive Frank Czarnowski at the opening of Bowles Lodge, one of five new schemes together providing homes for more than 200 people.

    Among those at the official opening of the Hawkhurst scheme was 83 year-old Eileen Thornton, one of the residents now benefiting from a policy that allows people to share their comfortable apartments with their pets.

    Gizmo, Eileen’s pure white cat, makes a big difference to her life and is one of a handful of pets – including a rescued greyhound – now living at Bowles Lodge.

    It was the realisation that animals could make a big difference to the wellbeing of tenants that inspired our new pet-friendly policy at Bowles Lodge and the other four schemes built by the Kent EHFA ProjectCo’s £100 million Kent Excellent Homes for All private finance initiative.

    The schemes, at Hawkhurst, Dartford, Ramsgate, Dover and Tenterden, have together provided 218 extra care apartments for people who are over the age of 55, have a care need and are on the local authority housing register.

    Residents benefit from a blend of independent living and 24-hour care, while Scheme Manager Marcia Clarke and her team have already organised activities including Tai Chi – as the visitors discovered – and social get-togethers.

    Marcia explained that the decision to allow pets at the five extra care schemes had been a response to the strong bonds created in many cases.

    “I have known situations in the past when elderly people who really needed to be in care refused to move out of their home because they would have had to leave their much-loved pet behind.

    “As well as preventing that kind of issue, this policy brings a lot of happiness to people like Eileen who would otherwise be on their own.”

    Bowles Lodge, which has 48 well-appointed apartments, also boasts a hair salon, gym/dance studio, bathroom with hoist, bar, restaurant, well-being room and activities and computer suite.

    The flats are large and well equipped and the schemes are fully wheelchair accessible, with good storage for mobility scooters.

    West Kent is managing Bowles Lodge and the other Kent Excellent Homes for All schemes under a 25-year contract, while Galliford Try Facilities Management will repair and maintain the buildings and grounds.

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