Alex Jarema (left) and Steve Gale (right), both former members of the Neepawa Kin Club, put together a trishaw bicycle for Neepawa’s Cycling Without Age chapter on April 11.(Miranda Leybourne/The Brandon Sun)

The Neepawa Kin Club is launching a new bicycle service aimed at helping seniors and people with low mobility by providing them with free rides around town, fresh air and socialization.

The club is opening a Cycle Without Age program, where volunteer drivers will cycle on a specialized three-wheel, electric pedal-assisted bicycle called a trishaw that can carry up to two passengers at once.

It can be difficult for seniors and people who experience mobility challenges to move around the community, which can lead to isolation and loneliness, said Kin Canada vice-president Amanda Naughton-Gale.

“It’s kind of a great way to get out and about and go for a coffee or go somewhere that’s a little bit different than where you might go on a drive,” she said.

Denny Phillips, who has volunteered with the Neepawa Kin Club for nearly 20 years and currently serves as its secretary, said the positive impact of getting outside and socializing for seniors and people of all ages can’t be understated. The Cycling Without Age program, she added, is a great way to have those needs met.

“It’s contact with other people. The volunteer that’s riding the bike can have a conversation and discussion with the seniors,” Phillips said.

Getting outside and into green space can ease depression in older adults, according to Active Aging Canada, a national not-for-profit organization that promotes healthy aging. A recent review of research that included older adults showed that outdoor-based activity therapies reduced depression and anxiety and enhanced a person’s positive experience, owing to a connection to nature, social support, physical activity and purposeful behaviour.

Thanks to local donations, including $40,000 from HyLife Foods, the Kin Club was able to purchase the trishaw bicycle and open a Cycling Without Age chapter in Neepawa. The bike itself cost around $8,000, and the Kin Club used the rest of the money for other programs, including their annual scholarship and seasonal activities.

A pair of volunteers who are former Kin Club members, Alex Jarema and Naughton-Gale’s husband Steve Gale, put the bike together this month.

The program, set to launch in May, will be free of charge. Organizations like seniors residences and care homes can book the bike, as can private citizens of Neepawa.

All that is needed now, Phillips said, are volunteers to sign up to operate the trishaw.

“We’re going to be doing a display of the bike and having volunteers come out and hopefully sign up for times they can do that,” she said.

Naughton-Gale is encouraging people to come and check out the bike for themselves once it’s on display.

“It will be something that will be easy to ride and easy to navigate,” she said. “You don’t have to be a triathlete.”

Volunteers can sign up for regular times they are available and be “on call” for those times, Naughton-Gale said.

Based on feedback Phillips has already heard from people interested in the Cycling Without Age, she is hopeful plenty of people will want to sign up to help take people where they’d like to go.

Cycling Without Age, a non-profit organization that runs chapter non-profits worldwide, was started in 2012 by Ole Kassow of Denmark, who wanted to help elders get back on their bicycles. He began offering free bike rides on his trishaw to local nursing home residents.

Since then, 39 countries have opened a combined 2,050 chapter locations, where more than 39,000 trained cycle pilots ride 4,900 trishaws.

The program has offered more than three million rides and has served more than 650,000 people since its inception. The oldest trishaw pilot is currently Jørgen Hass, 90, of Denmark.

Currently, Cycling Without Age chapters exist in Thompson, Lundar, Pine Falls, Winnipeg and Morden, with the Neepawa chapter being the newest in Manitoba to open.

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 20, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Brandon Sun   Brandon, Manitoba
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