Enhancing the lives of seniors – The Ottawa Experience

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By Michaela Berniquez

What images come to mind when thinking about community? Strolling around, admiring the neighbors’ gardens, seeing children play, walking to work or to shops… These thoughts about a community are all related to enjoying the outdoor environment. What happens when someone is held back from enjoying this outdoor environment? The risk of isolation and loneliness grows.

As people age, their bodies often become frailer and their range of movement can become more restricted, making it much harder to get outdoors. This would cause isolation and loneliness in anyone, let alone the often frail people living in long-term care.

Recognizing the benefits, Therapeutic Support Services staff at Bruyère Continuing Care decided to look for ways to get residents outdoors. When the idea of Cycling Without Age was proposed, they could not turn the opportunity down.

What is Cycling Without Age?

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is an innovative program that helps seniors stay active and stay connected with their communities. Originating from Demark, CWA makes it possible for seniors or those with mobility challenges to get back on bicycles, allowing them to enjoy their scenic communities. This initiative started in 2012, and has expanded to 28 different countries.

CWA uses a special 3-wheeled rickshaw bike. These “trishaws” have a two-seater passenger carriage in the front. They are propelled by volunteer “pilots” who sit on a bike in the back. The bike pilot can easily chat with the passengers, often connecting people from different generations through conversation, storytelling, and reminiscing.

Cycling Without Age at Bruyère

Bruyère Continuing Care (Bruyère) opened Ontario’s first CWA chapter in 2016, in collaboration with community partner Gary Bradshaw. The program evaluation was supported by the Bruyère Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI). Bruyère runs two long-term care homes Saint-Louis Residence and Élisabeth Bruyère Residence and also operates the  Bruyère Village for independent seniors’ living, all located in Ottawa.

Understanding transitions from hospital to retirement homes

Bruyère’s Therapeutic Support Services Department runs the CWA program at all of these Bruyère sites, and has had tremendous success.

In the first summer season of the program, the CWA program served 46 residents of Saint-Louis Residence, or 1 in 4 who live in the Residence, as well as 48 Bruyère Village tenants, family members and friends who accompanied residents on their outings. With such a high demand, over 121 hours were pedaled in that first summer alone. Alternating between more than 34 trained volunteer bike pilots, the average ride was 60 minutes long and each participating resident had an average of three rides in the warm summer months.

The first season was an overall success, with a 99 per cent satisfaction rate. Participants commented on their enjoyment of the rides and the beauty of nature, bringing laughter and smiles as they waved at the neighbours passing them on the bike path and in the community. Pilots shared in that enjoyment, loving the exercise, nature, and discussions with new friends. The launch was similarly successful at Élisabeth Bruyère Residence in 2017, proving that this program can run in both homey suburban and busy urban settings.

Want more information? Watch our webinar!

Most recently, the Bruyère CLRI hosted a webinar covering the CWA program.  Presented by Kim Durst-Mackenzie (Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator, Bruyère) and Gary Bradshaw, (Community Partner), the webinar focuses on the concept of CWA and why it is an essential program, as well as offers a more detailed explanation of the ins-and-outs of running CWA in long-term care homes with a large group of dedicated volunteers.

To watch this webinar, please visit http://clri-ltc.ca/2018/03/cycling_without_age_webinar_recording/. A program brochure is available on the CLRI website at clri-ltc.ca.

This article draws on the findings of the evaluation of the first season of the Bruyère Cycling Without Age program, that was partially supported by the Government of Ontario through the Bruyère Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-term Care. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Ontario.

Michaela Berniquez is a Communications Assistant at Bruyère Research Institute and Bruyère Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care.