Three-wheeled bike helps Brockville seniors stay active
Handy Nevers (front) rides in a trishaw piloted by Cycling Without Age volunteer Greg McElrea in Brockville, July 15, 2020. (Nate Vandermeer / CTV News Ottawa)
BROCKVILLE, ON -- Ready to get the breeze through his hair, Handy Nevers straps into a unique three-wheeled bike called a "trishaw" in downtown Brockville.
"After being locked down for so long it's great. Super duper," he said smiling.
Nevers is a resident at the Chartwell Wedgewood retirement home, taking advantage of service called Cycling Without Age.
"It's intended mainly for seniors, but we're doing some work with mental health as well and some of our youngest riders have been three or four years old. Our oldest was 101!" said Greg McElrea, a volunteer and today's pilot on the trishaw.
The program's aim is to get seniors, and others, out and active in the nice weather.
"We'll come to a home and we'll just take them for a ride around the community," said McElrea.
A ride usually lasts between 45 minutes and an hour.
"Depends on where they want to go and their comfort level," he said. "Sometimes we go a little bit longer and sometimes it's a little bit shorter."
"Each of the pilots discuss with their passenger where they would like to go," said JoAnn Bell, another volunteer with the program.
"We go around Blockhouse Island, around Hardy Park, down some of the quiet streets. When we went to Gananoque, we went down by the river. We've been on the parkway so we'll go wherever they'd like to go," she said.
"We use the Brock Trail a lot," Bell added.
The program began in 2012 in Denmark and is now in 50 countries with more than 2000 local chapters.
"Our program this year is more of a community program, so we've approached long term care homes, retirement residences, and apartment buildings. We'll ask anybody if they'd like to go for a ride," said Bell.
Meeting new people is part of the fun, and having conversations while on the ride is a highlight.
"We had a lady the other day and she said she hasn't had this much fun in years. Anytime you talk to any of them, they just love it. The stories that you hear are wonderful. It's really a history lesson," said Bell.
"We try and get our rides in in the morning before it gets too hot. The bikes have a battery assist, so that certainly helps us a long the way when our legs are straining," laughed McElrea. "We're very lucky to have such a nice waterfront in Brockville and we try to take advantage of our local surroundings the best we can."
"People just love it. Just coming around and touring them around their community brings about some memories for them and we get to learn, as volunteers, a little bit more about them and where they've come from and their experience in the community," he added.
The program is now a registered charity, so they can offer receipts for anybody who would like to donate to the organization.
Right now, they are running the trishaw two to three days a week, but would love to run it every day.
"Once we get a few more volunteers to ride, we'd love to keep this bike going as many days as possible," said McElrea.
Fred Pankoski, another Wedgewood resident, also took an early morning tour.
"It was a real pleasure to be on the pleasure end of it instead the working end of it," he said with a grin. "Nice view, nice view of everything. Keep bringing pleasure to people and you can't go wrong."
As Handy Nevers returned from his ride, he praised his pilot.
"Oh, great, and such a good driver. We've had interesting conversations, believe me!" Nevers said, laughing.
"Thank you very much! I've enjoyed my day. It was worth getting up this morning," he said.
Anyone looking to volunteer or donate to Cycling Without Age can contact JoAnn Bell through their Facebook page: Cycling Without Age - Brockville.
Cycling Without Age – Brockville is extremely grateful for the support from our community, as many seniors and vulnerable citizens have been isolated for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also from the assistance to this project from the Canadian Government and the United Way of Leeds Grenville through the COVID-19 emergency community support fund.