Published in The Daily Express 3 November 2023 

By Deborah Stone

ANIMAL MAGIC: Cognatum provides dog-friendly grounds at estates such as The Rivus











How do you solve the problem of where to live in retirement? Should you stay in a property with a lifetime’s memories, or move closer to family or old friends? Should you downsize to a smaller home or simply a similar-sized newer home with better energy efficiency and fewer maintenance requirements?

And should you be thinking about your long-term health by opting for single-floor living in a property that is close to shops and public transport for when driving is no longer an option?

There is even more to consider for the growing number of older people who own dogs, says John Lavin, managing director of Cognatum.

In the past three years the company has seen the number of dog owners double from 10 to 20 per cent of the 2,200-plus residents in its 60 private over-55s estates.

“The physical and mental benefits of dog ownership are overwhelming,” he says. “They help owners settle into a regular routine, provide excellent companionship, reduce stress, and provide a good point of contact for conversation and friendship.”

But dog owners need a suitable space to walk their pets, whatever the weather, and many over-55s developments do not allow animals.

That is not true of Cognatum’s estates, says Lavin: “Most are set in dog-friendly grounds. Many have areas of woodland or pasture, or access to rivers, streams or lakes, so they are ideal for dog owners.”

Cognatum is also a member of The Cinnamon Trust (, a charity that works with pet owners.

“The Trust has volunteers who will step in if dog owners are unable to care for their pets, either temporarily or permanently,” says Lavin.

“They provide a fostering service for pets whose owners face a spell in hospital, or long-term care for owners who are no longer able to keep their pet.”

Among Cognatum’s newest over-55s developments is The Rivus in Wantage, on the edge of the North Wessex Downs area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Oxfordshire market town—birthplace of King Alfred and home to Poet Laureate John Betjeman for many years—is 15 miles south of Oxford, while The Rivus is on the edge of town and close to shops, supermarkets and Wantage Community Hospital.

Apartments start from £265,000 (07548 558801; and facilities include a lounge, rooftop terrace, wellness centre and communal gardens.

Other Cognatum estates with homes for sale include Orchard Yard in Wingham, just a few miles from Kent’s north and east coasts, where prices start from £725,000 (01491 821170); Petersfinger Farm near Salisbury, with 37 acres of Wiltshire meadowland and orchards, with barn conversions from £730,000 (01227 456645), and The Canopy in Chigwell, London, set in woodland and with apartments from £545,000 (01491 821170).

“The good thing about living in a ready-made community is that neighbours are usually happy to help,” says Lavin.

“Owning a dog is no longer restrictive for those wanting to use their retirement or semi-retirement for short or long-term trips and travel, or for those who feel their health or fitness may make dog ownership difficult.”

For more information:
01491 821170 /

Cognatum, a not-for-profit company, has 60 retirement estates in 21 counties across central and southern England, a total of 928 retirement homes. All are in prime locations within vibrant market towns or villages, within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Each estate benefits from thoughtful architecture, landscaped grounds, and a dedicated estate manager.