Retirement community program helps seniors ride bikes again

Retirement community program helps seniors ride bikes again

MADISON, Wis. - It's no surprise that Madison is a biking community, but for seniors riding a bike loses its ease with the years. A trend started in 2012 in Denmark, has finally made its way to Madison, and it makes it possible for those in retirement community to still take a ride.

At 101 years old, you wouldn't think that Florence Cole's mid-day activities would include riding a bike, but with the help of her son Bob and volunteers at Oakwood Village in Madison, riding a bike is as simple as taking a seat.

"If she can still go biking, then it can bring back that youthful spirit," said Bob Cole.

"Cycling without age", is a program for older adults in retirement homes who are no longer physically or cognitively able to ride a bike.

Founded in Copenhagen, volunteers pedal specially-built bicycle rickshaws with up to two passengers to help seniors enjoy the pleasures of being on a bike, including sharing the experience with their "pilots" and each other.

"It's fun to think that 'well gee, I'm not that old after all. I'm part of what's going on in the world,'" Florence Cole said.

A motorized bike helps "pilots" to take a ride with passengers sitting in a seat, equipped with a seat belt for precaution.

"I  can still walk and I can swim, but a lot of people can't. That's why I enjoy the fact that we have this here and I think they are going to love it," said Oakwood Village resident, Margret Hickman.

The program is the first of its kind in Madison for a retirement community. Its goal is not only to get seniors outside but to build relationships with those behind the wheel.

"We just want people to continue to grow and have new opportunities and dispel the myth that this is where you go to live out your final days," said Keith Vanlanduyt, vice president of Marketing and Donor Relations.

Bob and Florence are living those new experiences, bonding together creating memories one ride at a time.

"My mother and I always had the word called "a-sperience," and we always wanted a new "a-sperience" in our lives and here we are having a new "a-sperience," Cole said.

Pilots are required to complete a brief training session prior to their first ride. The senior facility currently has over 15 trained volunteer pilots, including three members of the Madison Police Department.

Each bicycle costs $6,000. All three bikes have been purchased through donations . According to Vanlanduyt, Oakwood hope to raise $40,000 to purchase additional bikes.

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