Cycling Without Age gives Murrurundi seniors freedom and fun

IT’S a win-win situation for everyone, according to Murravale Retirement Home operations manager Di Van-Balen.

In a first for the Upper Hunter, the Murrurundi aged care facility has joined Cycling Without Age, the growing, internationally-acclaimed movement that allows the elderly to get back out on bicycles overcoming isolation, the challenge of limited mobility and experience “the right to wind in your hair” freedom. 

The bicycles, known as trishaws, were launched on Wednesday by Fran Scriven and Harriet McKillop to a very enthusiastic local crowd that included excited residents and their families, local dignitaries including the Upper Hunter Shire councillor Sue Abbott, who initiated the idea. 

Ms Abbott came up with the concept to bring trishaws to the Upper Hunter after looking for an outing for her mother in England last year. 

A keen cyclist herself, she knew the benefits that cycling had to offer. 

Her research led her to Cycling Without Age and she sought to bring the program to Murravale with the philanthropic backing of David Paradice. 

“It is wonderful to provide the opportunity for our elders to get out into the community and enjoy the sensation of the wind in their hair,” she explained.

“I knew that experience was empowering and would be something the Murrurundi community would embrace.”

The two electric powered trishaws were purchased late last year by a donation from local philanthropist, David Paradice, and they have been enthusiastically endorsed by the Murravale residents. 

Mrs Van-Balen, one of the current pilots, said the trishaws had made a huge difference in the residents’ lives. 

“It’s an amazing initiative,” she admitted.

“And, we’ve named the trishaws Murray and Val, to everyone’s delight.

“The bikes offer our residents an opportunity to reconnect with their past and interact with their community – and it’s really lifted their mood. 

“It’s all about enhancing their quality of life and gives everyone a conversation piece at the end of the day.

“Many of the residents rode bikes as children.

“So, is lovely to see the joy the trishaw outings bring to one and all.”

For Fran Scriven, an 86-year-old resident, who has been out and about on the trishaw, it has been exhilarating.

It’s also given her a chance to revisit her community, seeing old friends and her former home. 

“A lovely experience,” she said. 

“I loved getting out, seeing my friends and seeing my old home.” 

Mrs Van-Balen is now looking for volunteers, especially men, to take residents on rides. 

“For this fabulous venture to be the success it deserves to be, we need the support of the Murrurundi community,” she said. 

“Piloting is easy. 

“We train you. 

“All you have to do is register your interest and show up for training. 

“It would be perfect for anyone that is happy to have a conversation and help residents get out and about.

“It’s so rewarding to see the smiles on the residents’ faces.” 

If you would like to volunteer, contact Manager@murravale.asn.au

It’s all about enhancing their quality of life and gives everyone a conversation piece at the end of the day.

Di Van-Balen

The trishaws were manufactured in Denmark and are part of the fast growing Cycling Without Age, a campaign that started in Copenhagen with five trishaws in 2012. 

Now in 38 countries around the world, the organisation has five guiding principles: 

• Generosity – based on kindness, it starts with the obvious generous act of taking one or two elderly or less-abled people out on a bike ride. 

• Slowness – allows you to sense the environment, be present in the moment and it allows people you meet along the way to be curious and gain knowledge 

• Storytelling – Elderly people have so many stories that will be forgotten if we don’t reach out and listen to them. 

• Relationships – Cycling Without Age is about creating a multitude of new relationships: between generations, among the elderly, between pilots and passengers, nursing homes employees and family members. 

• Without Age – Life does not end when you turn 75. Life unfolds at all ages, young and old, and can be thrilling, fun, sad, beautiful and meaningful. Cycling Without Age is about letting people age in a positive context – fully aware of the opportunities that lie ahead when interacting in their local community. 

This story A first for the Upper Hunter | PHOTOS, VIDEO first appeared on The Scone Advocate.