Imagine your busy life, gone. Your friends have moved away or died. Your children live elsewhere. Your partner? She or he departed long ago. Your house? Sold and your possessions scattered. Your life’s work? Finished. Your skills and experience are no longer valued.
What would you have left? Your memories. Photos. Books. Your health, or not even that. What would you do with yourself? What would sustain you? Sadly, many older people lives are as such, especially those living in aged-care facilities.
I recently attended a presentation given by Dorthe Pedersen of Cycling Without Age. It made me think. My children are young. They need love, food and care to grow and thrive. I have my work which is challenging and demanding (although I set the pace now). My husband also needs care and attention and we are working together to raise our children. My life is very full. But one day, this may not be the case. I would like to think that I would still be bicycling and that I would still be vital but there are no guarantees. Would I still have relationships that nurture and sustain me?
The organisation’s aim is to providing the elderly with the opportunity to remain an active part of society and the local community. Dorthe screened a short film about the Cycling Without Age organisation which started in Denmark. Pilots (bicyclists) pedalled a group of elderly people from several aged care facilities from Denmark to Norway. They carried two people per cargo tricycle, also referred to as a trishaw. Each had an electric motor to help with the load. They covered about 70-100 km per day. The scenes from the film reminded me of taking my children in our Nihola when they were pre-schoolers and more recently to their music lessons. Rarely have they complained of boredom with the vista in front of them. And despite the common belief that all Sydney drivers are heartless and cruel, for the majority of our journeys, we have received positive and supportive comments and smiles from everyone. Imagine the possibilities!
I was struck by how much more alert and engaged the men and women were while traveling and enjoying the view during the three day trip. All seemed muted and resigned prior to the journey. One couple, who happened to meet because they were seated together in the same cargo tricycle, came alive. They were flirting outrageously with one another. She was in her nineties and he was in his eighties.
In my last blog “The 40 Kilometre Day” I wrote about how bicycling has mind-expanding properties. A variety of published research confirms this. Most importantly, it acts as stimulus to keep the brain growing and functioning. Instead of just surviving within the confines of their facility, the trip made a lasting impression on all of the elderly participants. They were more positive, more engaged, happier.
Dorthe is promoting the start of Cycling Without Age chapters in Australia and can be contacted via Facebook or on email (firstname.lastname@example.org) . Recently, a chapter started in Canberra. It’s a wonderful way to engage the elderly and to put your bicycling skills to good use. Hopefully, this blog has inspired you to start riding or perhaps you have already been converted. Have a thought for the elderly in an aged-care facility not far from you? They likely had a busy and full life as you do now. Consider joining as a pilot or starting a chapter in your local area.