Nova Scotia

Virtual bicycle allows seniors to tour the world, or revisit their childhood home

An Eastern Passage, N.S., continuing care home recently added a new piece of technology to its exercise equipment that's proving a big hit with the people who live there.

Residents of Nova Scotia continuing care home lining up to use bicycle since it was installed two weeks ago

Ocean View resident Hennie Verkruysse, right, tries out the BikeAround while Ocean View staff member Laura Karahka looks on. (Alex Lynch/CBC)

An Eastern Passage, N.S., continuing care home recently added a new piece of technology to its exercise equipment that's proving a big hit with the people who live there.

The "virtual bicycle" called the BikeAround is being used by residents at Ocean View Continuing Care Centre to visit their childhood homes and tour the world.

Since it arrived two weeks ago, there's been a lineup to use it.

The stationary bicycle is connected to Google Streetview and projects images of the street onto a large curved screen. Turning the handlebars of the bicycle turns the view, and peddling moves the screen view down the road. 

Mildred Kettlewell, left, cycles down a virtual road in Cape Breton, while Patti Lane assists her. (Alex Lynch/CBC)

It's the first one of its kind in Atlantic Canada and cost $22,000. The project was spearheaded by a Dalhousie University health administration student, who helped gather the funding to bring the bicycle to the home. 

The staff at Ocean View say there are physical benefits to the exercise, but it's just as important to help residents start conversations about the places that are significant to them.

Many people are choosing to take the virtual bicycle to their childhood home, says Patti Lane, Ocean View's director of innovation and accountability. 

Kettlewell said she loves seeing the road where she grew up on the BikeAround screen. (Alex Lynch/CBC)

"A lot of the time, people that have memory difficulties, the earliest memories are what remain. And so if you do put in your childhood home that's most often when you're reminiscing and talking about the past," she said.

"That's when you're oftentimes able to have those really meaningful conversations."

Watch two Ocean View residents try out the virtual bicycle

An Eastern Passage continuing care home recently added a new piece of technology to its exercise equipment that's proving to be a big hit with the people who live there. 2:19

About the Author

Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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