How Cycling without Age counters the inactivity and isolation of ageing

by Vomle Springford / 18 July, 2018
Residents at Selwyn Village get a taste of a Cycling without Age tri-shaw. Photo/Sarah Denison.

Residents at Selwyn Village get a taste of a Cycling without Age tri-shaw. Photo/Sarah Denison.

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Cycling without Age is a global movement helping counter limited mobility and isolation that can come with ageing – and it's coming to Selwyn Village rest home in Point Chevalier soon.

Cycling is often seen as a middle-age-man-in-lycra’s game but a new project to get older people on bikes around Auckland’s Point Chevalier is hoping to change that stereotype and improve quality of life.

Cycling without Age is a global movement to help elderly people get back on bikes – with tri-shaws. A volunteer ‘pilot’ (sometimes assisted by an electric battery) does the leg work while two people sit on a seat at the front of the three-wheeled bike and explore the neighbourhood.

Even though the people seated aren’t actually cycling, they’re still getting out and about – something which gets harder to do as you get older and your mobility becomes limited, says cycling advocate Greer Rasmussen, who together with Tim Duhamel, is organising for Selwyn Village rest home in Point Chev to get a tri-shaw.

They have just been granted $10,000 from Albert-Eden Local Board to fund the purchase of the bike for a Cycling Without Age chapter at the rest home, which they hope to get up and running by summer.

Getting out of the rest home can be a challenge for some people at Selwyn, says Rasmussen.
It’s a massive place: there are 700 residents and only three vans to serve them. “They do get the Gold Card but the bus isn’t really an option for a lot of people who have limited mobility.”

Taxis are often too expensive for people on the pension. “They might have only have $20 or 30 a week to live on and that’s to pay for clothes, glasses, hearing aids, outings. So they can’t really afford to be taking taxis.”

As well as this, many residents don’t have the cognitive abilities or confidence to leave the village on their own, she says. “There’s a big population of people with Alzheimer's and dementia, so they can’t really go out on their own – they need someone with them.”

More residents enjoy the ride. Photo/Sarah Denison.

More residents enjoy the ride. Photo/Sarah Denison.

Having limited movement is something Rasmussen knows changes a person’s life radically.

“My grandma has motor neuron disease so she can't really get out and about. She was someone who loved being outside, she travelled and was a tramper, and she just can’t do that anymore. I would like to do it for her too [in Whangarei where her grandmother lives].”

An important benefit of Cycling without Age is the social connection created between the pilot and the riders. “Loneliness is a big problem for elderly in NZ – one in five are considered lonely. It’s as bad for your health as smoking, and we have an ageing population so it’s potentially a health crisis.”

To give residents a taste of tri-shaw rides, Rasmussen and Duhamel, with the support of Selwyn’s diversional therapist Orquidea Mortera, held a carnival day with bikes loaned from Bicycle Junction in Wellington. Some people who were initially sceptical, came around to the idea, says Rasmussen, and feedback on the day was positive.

One person said: “My grandma was very reluctant to leave her room today and was feeling a little down but once she got on the bike you couldn’t get her off, she loved feeling the wind in her hair.”

One of the drivers of running the project for Rasmussen and Duhamel is to show cycling can be for everyone – they voluntarily started this project, among others.

Rasmussen says there's still the need for more bike infrastructure in Auckland to make cycling accessible for everyone. 

“We are in a transitional phase where there’s not enough people cycling yet to fully [to make the case] but we need to build the infrastructure to get people to cycle.”

“A lot of the cycleways around Auckland aren’t built for bikes big and small. They’re just built for dudes on road bikes. They’re not built for kids bikes, cargo bikes, things like that, so we want to get more of those different types of bikes on the road so the right types of cycle lanes get built.”

The duo are currently fundraising on Givealittle for $6000 to pay a coordinator to organise the rides and they are welcoming any volunteers who are interested in becoming pilots.

For more information, see Cycling without Age at Selwyn Village.

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