Ottawa

Bruyère bike project gets seniors back in the saddle

Bruyère Village unveils a bicycle built especially to take its elderly residents for a ride. Imagine a tricycle with two wheels at the front to help balance a bucket seat for two passengers. It's something that gets them outside but also gets them interacting with more mobile volunteers who live there or with their own family members.

'Cycling Without Age' bike project aims to get seniors and volunteers cycling and storytelling

Bruyère Continuing Care has adopted a pilot project to get volunteers and passengers on a rickshaw-style bike. (Bruyère Continuing Care)

There's nothing quite like that feeling of freedom from hopping on a bike, pedalling fast, and feeling the breeze blow through your hair. But there comes a time in life when two-wheeled transportation becomes a little bit too precarious. 

Until now. 

Bruyère Village has unveiled a bicycle built especially to take its elderly residents for a ride.

Imagine a tricycle with two wheels at the front to help balance a bucket seat for two passengers. It's something that gets them outside but also gets them interacting with more mobile volunteers who live there or with their own family members.

Gary Bradshaw is the Bruyère volunteer who thought of bringing the rickshaw-style bike to Bruyère.

Bradshaw told Ottawa Morning's Jessa Runciman, he saw them while travelling through Denmark with his wife.

 'It looked like a really fantastic idea and a nice way of getting people out.'- Bruyère volunteer Gary Bradshaw

"And when I got back did a bit of research on it and noticed that there was only one particular city that had the program in Canada, and felt that this program should be expanded into the city. It looked like a really fantastic idea and a nice way of getting people out."

The bike is easy to get in and out of, and it has battery-assisted power to help riders get over hills, says Bradshaw. 

"The ease of getting in and out. The balancing of it because you have the two front wheels at the front ... It has eight speeds and is also battery assist... which also helps with weight and also any grade variations on the ground."

Stories on wheels

On top of the physical benefits for the riders who do the pedalling, there's also a connection they hope will develop between them and their passengers. 

During the two-hour-long training course for volunteers, they learn about how to safely handle the bike but they're also taught how to engage passengers in conversation and storytelling.

Karen Lemaire, Bruyère Continuing Care's director of volunteer services, says they've trained over 20 volunteers at their Saint Louis residence for the pilot project so far. 

"Bruyère Continuing Care is very excited about trying out this innovative programming ... The intention would be, if it works, which I have a great positive feeling that it will, then after our evaluation we would consider implementing it at some of our other facilities. But would require funding so we would be looking to the community to contribute, if they could, to finance another bike," says Lemaire.

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