Cycling Without Age is a non-profit volunteer program that offers free bicycle rides to the elderly and people of differing abilities in the local community.
The program was originally founded in Copenhagen, Denmark by Ole Kassaw in 2012.
Thanks to the endeavors of First District Alder Tori Jennings, fellow members of the Cycling Without Age (CWA) board of directors and support from a myriad of donors and partnerships, the program will soon claim a chapter in Stevens Point.
The idea for a Stevens Point chapter of CWA first came to Jennings several years ago after she stumbled upon some photographs and a YouTube video which depicted the program in other parts of the world.
It wasn’t until last year, though, that Jennings turned the inspiration into action.
“Last September, I borrowed a trishaw from Brewster Village in Appleton and hosted a hands-on event at both the [Aging and Disability Resource Center] (ADRC) and Portage County Health Care Center (PCHCC),” Jennings said. “The day was a huge success and participants agreed that we have a real need for the program in our community.”
After a few years of careful planning and fundraising efforts, the Stevens Point chapter will launch officially on June 1 after a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 30 at the ADRC.
Cycling Without Age Stevens Point is estimated to service between 750 and 1000 seniors as well as people with differing abilities at 19 in-home care, independent living and assisted living facilities in the Stevens Point area.
CWA board member Marcia McDonald believes that the program has the potential to make an enormous positive difference in the lives of those it serves, citing examples from the September trial run led by Jennings.
“A married couple celebrating their wedding anniversary… rode together and ‘came alive’. He ultimately discharged back to their community living setting, and I attribute much of this change of attitude to ‘the ride,'” McDonald said. “Also, a younger individual who had not been out of her wheelchair for mobility for several years. After taking a ride Leone exclaimed: ‘I feel like I am alive again. What a true life change for me!’”
McDonald also brought up the issue of isolation for seniors and people with disabilities when discussing the need for the program and explained the value of CWA as a remedy for those feelings.
“This program is such a cool answer to lack of purpose and meaning,” McDonald said. “It also allows for experiencing the out of doors in a safe and ‘escorted’ manner.”
To accomplish the task of transporting these individuals around the city, the program makes use of trishaws, “a tricycle-rickshaw hybrid equipped with electric pedal assist,” as Jennings describes it. These trishaws are operated by trained volunteers called ‘pilots’ who pedal the vehicle.
According to Jennings, the program has raised over $19,000 through funding from the ADRC, Copperleaf Assisted Living, and individual donations — and they’ve already purchased two of the three $9,000 trishaws that they’re striving to obtain ahead of the program’s launch.
The program’s benefits will also extend to students in the School of Health Promotion and Human Development at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who will now have the opportunity to fulfill practicum requirements through volunteer work with the program.
“Professor Annie Wetter will lead HPHD undergraduate research projects that explore and analyze the program’s impact,” Jennings said. “Not only will UWSP students gain practical job skills, their research results should provide valuable local information about the program, the people it serves and our community.”
To ensure a smooth operation and maximum accommodation, the program leaders are looking to recruit 75 volunteer trishaw pilots.
Those interested in partnering with CWA as a volunteer pilot or program sponsor can contact Tori Jennings by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 715-344-7377. More information can be found on the program’s Facebook page. Donations to the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin can be made at http://www.cfcwi.org/.