‘I just love it’: New program in Penticton offers seniors free bike rides to enjoy the great outdoors
It’s a movement that started in Denmark about seven years ago and has quickly gained momentum.
Cycling without Age is a way to connect seniors to fresh air and nature with a bicycle ride piloted by a volunteer.
The service has recently arrived in the Okanagan, with a Penticton branch being started by a group of dedicated volunteers led by Neil Pritchard.
“About January of last year I saw a YouTube video of a fellow in Scotland, a pre-med student who was doing exactly this,” Pritchard said. “So I just thought ‘I would really like to bring this to Penticton.’”
With more than 1,200 chapters in over 40 countries, the idea behind Cycling Without Age is simple: improving the lives of seniors by getting them out to socialize and connect with nature on bicycle rides, without any costs or strings attached.
“I think it was experiencing what my mother went through in a care home, where getting out was just so important,” Pritchard said. “It just seemed to be the right thing to do.”
Pritchard has been working hard to raise funds to make his dream a reality.
“When you actually get on a bike with passengers, it’s easy to see why,” Pritchard said. “They’re laughing, they’re enjoying themselves and they just get me laughing.”
The Penticton branch has a three-year plan in place to ramp up the service around the city.
“In three years, we’ll have 20 volunteers,” Pritchard said. “They’ll be providing a three-hours-a-week schedule that will amount to 800 passenger rides per month. And we’ll have four bikes. We have a second bike that is due within a week or so.”
The residents at Sun Village Seniors Living in Penticton were thrilled to be given the opportunity to participate in the program.
“I loved it. It’s nice to have someone push you around,” June Greening said after her first ride. “We would never be up this way if it wasn’t for the bike.”
Another participant, Marilyn Senger, loved riding bicycles when she was younger, but had to give up the pastime as she grew older and developed mobility issues.
“I just love it,” Senger said. “It’s so nice being out and not having to worry about anything – shifting gears, driving. It’s beautiful.”
Cycling Without Age Penticton is looking for more volunteers to pilot the Trishaws, which are easily maneuverable as they are electric.
All that is required is an ability to ride a bike and willingness to help others.
“I think it really helps your brain to get oxygen,” Merle Irvine said after her first jaunt in the Trishaw. “It makes me feel good.”
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