It’s true - we are never too old to ride

March 12, 2018

It’s true - we are never too old to ride

Ninety-four-year-old Selwyn Village resident Denis Snowden and local volunteer pilot Timothée Duhamel prove cycling has no age limit. Photo: Zoe Madden-Smith

An international cycling campaign is showing Selwyn Village residents that ageing doesn’t have to stop you from exploring the city with the wind in your hair.

Established in Denmark in 2012, Cycling Without Age (CWA) aims to get elderly people who are less physically abled out and about on trishaws. Trishaws are specialised electric bikes that seat two people in the front while a volunteer "pilot" pedals from behind.

More than 30 Selwyn Village residents went for a spin around their community during a bike carnival held at the Point Chevalier retirement home on Sunday.

CWA founder Ole Kassow wanted to use social cycling as a way of minimising the harmful consequences of social isolation many elderly face each day.

Volunteer pilot Timothée Duhamel, 29, says the core purpose is to get community engagement. “Get community members volunteering their time as pilots to spend time with residents who, yeah, may be lonely, who may not see that much of the world outside their home.”

Selwyn Village resident Joan Monkton, 74, had never ridden a bike before and loved the freedom and thrill of it all.

“It just gives you another interest in life when you’re not getting out yourself,” Mrs Monkton says.

“It’s a big day out, it gives you something else to think about and sometimes it takes the pain away a little bit as well.”

Social isolation among elderly is a prevalent concern in New Zealand. An Age Concern survey in 2017 found there are more than 60,000 severely lonely elderly people across the country.

And the effects are serious, says Merryn Gott, 44, author of End of Life Care for Older People and a nursing professor at the University of Auckland.

“There is research to show that loneliness has an equivalent impact on mortality as obesity and smoking. There are also known associations between loneliness and depression, at the most extreme, loneliness can result in suicide,” says Dr Gott.

Generation Zero cycling spokesperson and an Auckland ambassador of CWA Greer Juul Rasmussen, 26, says changes in research around elder care have triggered a push to integrate the village more with the community

The CWA campaign has already pedalled across 37 countries, with more than 10,000 volunteers and 50,000 elderly people reaping the benefits.

“Overseas this program has shown to help reduce people’s medication rates, improve mental health and improve connection,” says Ms Rasmussen. "We are really striving to get it established here permanently."

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