When Glen Marsh straps on his helmet and settles into his bike seat, he never has to pedal. He leaves that to someone else.
“It’s so fun to be on a bike again because it reminds me of when I was a little boy,” says Glen, a resident at St. Joseph’s Health Care London’s Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care.
“I also like this bike because I don’t have to do any work like pedaling,” he laughs. “I just get to sit back and enjoy the ride.”
His ride is part of Cycling Without Age, a new program at Mount Hope offering recreational mobility to older adults on a uniquely engineered cycle pedaled by therapeutic recreation staff. Founded in Denmark, Cycling Without Age is a grassroots movement that’s available in more than 30 countries.
“Many of our residents experience a loss of mobility and independence, which can lead to isolation and loneliness,” says Bernice Haasen, Coordinator of Therapeutic Recreation at Mount Hope. “Offering them the chance to go on a bike ride gets them outdoors to see life beyond Mount Hope, and to enjoy the city’s parks and neighbourhoods. And it really brings a lot of joy to their day.”
“Feeling the fresh air on my face”
What’s Glen’s favourite part of being on the trishaw cycle? “Getting to be outside in the sunshine, feeling the fresh air on my face,” he says.
His bike rides are powered by Brittany Tiseo, a Mount Hope staff member who pedals him wherever he wants to go. “When I’m taking Glen or other residents out for a ride, I see how being outdoors and enjoying the view brings a sense of freedom, a feeling of relaxation,” says Brittany. “They feel special, especially when families and kids see them and wave, and sometimes stop to talk. It’s a whole different type of experience because it connects our residents with the community.”
Since launching in spring 2019, the program has rapidly become a favourite among Mount Hope residents. So much so, time slots are filled in quick order – and include those who normally keep to themselves.
“It’s so great to see residents, who are reluctant to do some activities, sit in the bike and enjoy the ride,” adds Brittany. “Their faces light up, they smile … it brings back great memories.”
Mount Hope’s Cycling Without Age program is possible through the generosity of donors to St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, who contributed to the cycle purchase.
For Glen, the bike is more than a comfortable ride. “I get to go to Gibbons Park, where I can be around all sorts of nature, water, trees and animals. It’s also nice to see the families and children in the park, and sit by the water and watch people fish,” he says.
“I also like to bike around the neighbourhood and look at all the houses. When I’m out, I feel happy and relaxed.”