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    An innovative ‘pets welcome’ policy at our five new supported housing schemes has improved life for more than just the residents.

    Gizmo, a pure white puss, was a far from a happy cat after being forced to sleep in a barn following a number of angry encounters with his previous owner’s dog.

    But now, thanks to the pets policy at Bowles Lodge in Hawkhurst, an extra care scheme we manage on behalf of a group of partner organisations, Gizmo has a warm, comfortable home in the apartment of 83 year-old Eileen Thornton.

    Eileen with Gizmo

    And while Gizmo purrs contentedly, Eileen is equally happy with the arrangement. “It makes a huge difference to be able to share my life with him,” she commented. “I’ve always had a pet and he is great company. He has helped me make friends and I love having him around.”

    Bowles Lodge is one of the extra care schemes delivered as part of the Kent Excellent Homes for All private finance initiative by Kent EHFA ProjectCo and due to be officially opened in the next few months.

    Scheme manager Marcia Clarke said that the sheltered schemes, which together will provide more than 200 homes for over-55s across the county, were the first to include a policy allowing residents to keep pets.

    “Eileen moved in shortly after we opened last September and she settled in well. The only thing she missed, though, was the cat she had left behind after moving out of her daughter’s home.

    “When her daughter asked if it would be acceptable for her mum to have a pet of her own here, I was able to say yes, and it was not long before Gizmo arrived. He also settled in quickly and now they are inseparable.”

    There are currently five pets, including a rescued greyhound, at Bowles Lodge, and Marcia said there had been “absolutely no problem” in allowing cats and dogs to live at the scheme.

    “There is a carefully drafted pet contract that owners sign, and all the animals are neutered and micro-chipped, but as long as everyone follows the rules it works very well,” she added.

    “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. This policy prevents that kind of issue and brings a lot of happiness to people who would otherwise be on their own.”

    Bowles Lodge, which has 48 well-appointed apartments, also boasts a hair salon, gym, restaurant, well-being room and activities and computer suite. Residents must be over 55 and have a care need.

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