A ride down memory lane, the wind in your hair, smiles and laughter.
Creating joy and happiness are all things Cycling Without Age (CWA) offers not only riders, but the pilots as well.
CWA is a mobilization project to help seniors become active by offering free bike rides on a specialized trishaw (also known a cycle rickshaw or pedicab). The hope for CWA is to have seniors remain active outside of long-term care facilities and feel fewer constraints.
When the elderly enter long-term care facilitie,s many seniors become less mobile. Therefore, many seniors may become reliant on staff and lose their independence.
Many seniors can experience loneliness, depression and social isolation during these later years.
CWA is trying to make a difference in seniors' life by increasing social interactions, developing new connections and bringing back happy memories.
The program first originated on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012 by Ole Kassow. Since then CWA has grown rapidly across 42 countries and several parts of Canada.
Rainy River resident Jack Elliott said he stumbled across CWA's website by accident one day.
“I'm kind of a cycling enthusiast and interested in cycling stuff. I ran across this thing I've never heard of it before and it has quite a history,” explained Elliott.
Elliott wanted to give something back to his community and wanted to introduce CWA to the Town of Rainy River.
He said once he heard the many stories of how people felt reinvigorated from the program with a variety of positive effects on physical and social ailments.
Elliott, a long-time bicycle enthusiast, added CWA truly resonated with him because the joy of simple bike can have many benefits.
“I thought about it and said that would be nice to start something like that in this community,” he enthused.
“The goal of it is to get people that are mobility-challenged and keep them engaged in the community—or re-engaged in the community. So, many people they go into a long-term care facility and they kind of disappear from our community.”
Elliott enjoys cycling every day and once his body does not allow him to ride anymore he will miss the freedom and it will be tough for him to stop.
“I probably run my recumbent trike pretty close to 10 thousand kilometres a year up and down the road. I go for a ride every day and sometimes short ride but quite often I'm going 50 kilometres a day,” he said.
“One of these days I'm not going to be able to peddle my butt up and down the street, I won't be able to operate a trike anymore having reached pretty near the three-quarter century mark,” added Elliott.
Elliott's new trishaw is mostly battery-operated, which makes it very easy to operate, and he added it's not much different from riding a bike. As well, the trishaw provides a spacious, comfortable experience for its passengers.
He explained it was difficult to get the project rolling as the trishaws were only available overseas. Then a year later, he found a company out of Calgary where he purchased his trishaw from.
As a member of the Rainy River Lions Club, Elliott brought forward the idea as a way for the club to contribute to meaningful community initiatives.
“It really needed something on the ground,” mentioned Elliott.
The Lions Club agreed to help support Elliott's finances for the trishaw as he plans to have the service fully operational for next spring. He stated he is looking forward to visiting the long-term facilities in the spring and training more volunteers as he is the lone pilot in Rainy River for now.
He added the community's response has been very receptive and encouraging so far.
For Elliott, it was always about creating new memories from existing ones, connecting people with their community as they pass along stories and rejuvenating the lives of people as they feel the wind in their hair again.
“Elderly people kind of live on memories a lot. I find that I do, I sit there and reminisce about the good old days," he empathized. "But having them connected, having them seeing things, having their brains working and not just sitting in a facility.”
Elliott believes there is still a lot of wisdom and knowledge seniors can pass down to make a difference in both their lives and the people they connect with.
“It's simply reconnecting those people with the community because they are a valuable piece of our community," he added. "Let's make use of them they add value, they have stories to tell, their part of our community.”