This is why you might see a 'trishaw' bike being cycled around Newcastle

Chronicle Live 1 month ago

Lesley Heseltine can remember the exact moment she was inspired to start helping older people feel the wind in their hair again.

She was watching TV when she saw Pride of Britain winner Fraser Johnston talking about Cycling Without Age, which offers rides on a three-wheeled bike called a trishaw.

Medical student Fraser won the TSB Community Partner Award in 2017 for his role in the unique project, giving care home residents in Scotland the chance to enjoy fresh air and the freedom of cycling.

Lesley says: “I just had a lightbulb moment. I had never done any sort of volunteering before but this just felt right.”

She teamed up with Katie Wilkinson, and the pair set about bringing Cycling Without Age to their hometown of Newcastle.

It took them more than 18 months to raise the funds to buy their first trishaw. Now they are aiming for a second bike and are helped by a team of more than five volunteers.

Lesley says: “We do it because it feels good to give back. Our volunteers are all ordinary people from the community.  Some are retired, some are working full time, but all want to give back.

“What is lovely is that when you are out, your heads are so close together and you can just chat. You can share the experience and talk about anything and everything. It is also an amazing way for all of us to see the city.”

For most passengers, it is the first time in decades that they have been out on a bike.

“When we are out and about with our trishaw, which we have nicknamed Annie, people always stop and stare and when you see the smiles on their faces you realise what a great thing it is that we are doing.

“When we first go out many of our elderly folk are quite apprehensive. They often take some persuading as it’s totally outside of their comfort zone.  But once they are out, you should see how they suddenly open up. And the main thing is that they become visible.  They are no longer just tucked inside their care home. They are part of the community.

“They get to experience the city and nature close up from the trishaw and are plunged right back into the heart of their community - as evidenced by the enthusiastic waves and conversations with passers-by.”

Cycling Without Age began in Copenhagen in 2012 offering rides to elderly people and those with limited mobility. It now has 1,100 projects in 40 countries and an estimated 50,000 people have been on rides. The scheme has been proven to reduce loneliness, social isolation and improve well-being.

With an ageing population, and more than two million people over 75 living alone or isolated, projects like Cycling Without Age are a powerful antidote to the issue of loneliness and associated health issues.

Pensioner Vic, 90, says being taken for a ride by the team makes him feel like he is “living again”.

He lives alone, and can go for days without seeing anyone.  But his new hobby has brought renewed joy and meaning to his day-to-day life.

“It feels great, there is nothing in front of you and you seem to be like a free bird just flying along,”  says Vic. “I live alone so it is nice to do something like this, otherwise I would just be going into North Shields in my electrical buggy, going to the shop and then home again. But this is exciting - it’s living again.”

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