JOY ON WHEELS: Cycling Without Age Program Supports Older Adults Statewide
Wisconsin Bike Fed brought the global movement to the Chippewa Valley this summer
With roughly 100 chapters across the state, Cycling Without Age is the answer so many have been searching for to get back to enjoying enriching outdoor experiences.
Trishaws – three-wheeled, pedal-powered bikes – are the vehicles behind the magic, and volunteer pilots are the engine driving the Cycling Without Age program. Getting its start overseas in Denmark in 2012 thanks to Ole Kassow, the program has turned into a global movement. Kassow began offering free trishaw rides to local nursing home residents in order to give adults with limited mobility the opportunity to get back into biking, and that’s exactly what the Wisconsin Bike Fed has continued to do.
The Wisconsin Bike Fed brought trishaw pilot training to the Chippewa Valley this summer at local organizations, assisted living residences, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, and skilled nursing homes. Among them was Grace Lutheran Communities in Altoona, the last of the organization’s scheduled summer stops in the Valley, which held a trishaw training session on Tuesday, July 11.
“THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PROGRAM IS TO HELP THOSE WHO ARE NOT ABLE TO OR NEVER WERE ABLE TO RIDE A BICYCLE to FEEL THE JOY AND BENEFITS OF BIKING.”
WBF'S CYCLING WITHOUT AGE PROGRAM MANAGER
Michelle Bachaus, Wisconsin Bike Fed’s CWA program manager, helped 13 volunteer pilots learn the way of the trishaws, giving free rides out of the Grace Lutheran Communities’ parking lot. Bachaus provided a short presentation with a Q&A and allowed attendees to ride as a passenger in a trishaw too. Later that evening, they visited the Tuesday Night Blues event in Owen Park, spreading awareness of the program and allowing folks to see it in action.
“The reaction from people we give rides to is almost instant and pure joy,” Bauchus explained. “People who haven’t gotten out of their homes or assisted living situations much, (after riding) they’re talking more, sleeping better, eating better. The benefits from it are huge.”
Bachaus said benefits also include increased socialization and overall better wellness thanks to getting outdoors, as well as gaining new experiences or reconnecting with “old stomping grounds” and memories thanks to the trishaw rides.
“The importance of the program is to help those who are not able to or never were able to ride a bicycle to feel the joy and benefits of biking,” she explained. “The trishaws get people’s attention and it’s fun to wave to others and feel connected. It’s changing community culture.”
Thanks to a three-year grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin Bike Fed has been able to further establish and grow the Cycling Without Age programs, bringing joy to folks around the state. The organization takes the experience several steps further too, offering the tools to build a team, budget, fundraise, and handle insurance efforts to plan CWA program kick-offs in communities across the state.
“This is some of the most meaningful work I’ve ever done,” Bachus said. “I know that every volunteer I train is going to impact hundreds of lives and they’re going to have that same feeling I do.”
Learn more about the Cycling Without Age program and Wisconsin Bike Fed’s plentiful resources and tools for learning how to get involved and bring a CWA experience to your own community.