A program that aims to reduce older adults’ feelings of isolation in a fun way officially gets underway in Louisville, KY, today thanks in part to a senior living community there.
The local chapter of Cycling Without Age is launching with a battery-assisted cycle rickshaw (known as a trishaw) based at the Hallmark House assisted living and memory care community.
The nonprofit originated in 2012 in Denmark and came to the United States in 2015, when it was implemented at Lutheran Homes of Oshkosh (now Miravida) in Wisconsin. The goal of the program is to create multigenerational experiences and facilitate community inclusion and enjoyment of the outdoors, which can wane with age due to older adults’ physical and other limitations.
“Overall, I believe the sensory input of being outside and moving, socializing with new people and feeling the wind in their hair and on their face can really help bring a better quality of life and relieve some loneliness,” occupational therapist Catherine Birchfield, who brought the program to Louisville, told McKnight’s Senior Living.
Birchfield said Kelly Lehmann, Hallmark House activities director, was an “instrumental partner” in bringing the program to Louisville by raising funds to purchase the trishaw and housing the three-wheeler.
The Louisville trishaw arrived in the United States in June and, after being assembled in Wisconsin, arrived in Kentucky in July. Rides began being offered to older adults shortly thereafter, once volunteers “pilots” were trained. As of Sept. 1, the chapter had trained 13 pilots and given 15 rides to Hallmark residents.
“We’ve been offering rides every day, and the residents absolutely love it,” Birchfield said. “We have reports from nurses that clients seem happier after rides. They sleep better, and they eat more lunch.”
Hallmark House believes that offering the program “has really set them apart from other facilities,” she added.
The Louisville chapter of Cycling Without Age hopes to raise funds to buy a trailer that can be used to take the trishaw to other area senior living communities and skilled nursing facilities and ultimately to purchase additional vehicles. The trishaw also will be used to provide rides at community events and senior centers.
“Kentucky, being of low socioeconomic status overall, really benefits from this sort of volunteer-driven outreach to seniors,” Birchfield said.