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Pedalling Onwards in Later Life

by Peter Kennedy in Gwersyllt, Wales, United Kingdom

Not quite
Unfortunately this project was not successful.

To provide introductory all-ability cycling sessions for older people in a country park, giving health benefits and enjoyment.

by Peter Kennedy in Gwersyllt, Wales, United Kingdom

Cycling4All, operating as Pedal Power, is well established at Alyn Waters Country Park, providing opportunities for people of all abilities to enjoy cycling and the associated health benefits. This is undertaken through the provision of specialist bikes, trikes wheelchair cycles and side-by-side bikes, as well as two wheel hybrid and mountain bikes. By using traffic-free safe tracks within the country park, it offers an ideal place for people who have never cycled before or thought they would never be able to do so, or for people who may have enjoyed cycling in their youth but have ceased to do so.

At present, Pedal Power is mainly patronised by people with physical or learning disabilities, or who are recovering from serious episodes of ill-health, and hitherto the service has mainly focused on serving this section of the community. However, older people come to experience many similar challenges and barriers to exercise and physical activity as people with disabilities.  It is much harder to enjoy physical exercise if equipment and facilities are not geared to your needs, and if the ambience is not sympathetic and welcoming. It can also be very discouraging to participate in exercise without the companionship of friends and family.

Pedal Power, and the wider environment at Alyn Waters, overcomes both of these barriers. Pedal Power provides a responsible and experienced member of staff able to work with people of all abilities, who can undertake an individual assessment of need and capability and set up a suitable cycle according to individual requirements. All the cycles are adjustable to accommodate specific individual needs (e.g. height, leg length, seat position, etc.). Risk assessments are undertaken for each user, and routine maintenance safety checks are made for each ride. Our staff member is supported by a number of capable and experienced volunteers, and together with the range of cycles available this means that sociable group rides are practicable.

Our vision and aim of this proposal is to encourage many more older people to use our service and get the health and social benefits which it will offer. We propose a scheme which will offer a sequence of sessions at no cost to the user as a ‘taster’, with the objective of initiating an improvement in general health and wellbeing, helping to maintain independence and improve social contact, and we hope that many of the people who come for the ‘tasters’ will continue to use and benefit from our service.

One day each week will be dedicated to participants taking part in the scheme. ‘Pedalling  Onwards in Later Life’ will run as sequences of 10 weeks. Participants will have the chance to attend for one half-day on 8 days out of the 10 available – the scheme will give some flexibility so that people do not have to commit to coming every week. We will offer 3 such sequences from spring to early autumn 2020, benefiting 20 people in each sequence, so that over this period a total of 60 people will directly benefit with activity and social contact. Up to 480 individual rides will take place.

The scheme will be particularly targeted at people aged 55+, but we will not exclude anyone who will benefit from the typical physical benefits of cycling, including the maintenance of a healthy weight, strengthened muscles and stimulus for the heart and lungs.

As well as the exercise value of taking part, the scheme will offer further benefits of sociability, as the sequences will bring the same people together each week, creating opportunity for new friendships to be formed. Participants will have the opportunity to make use of the refreshment facilities on site before or after their cycling, again encouraging sociability and tending to reduce loneliness which may arise in later life and after retirement.  

Aviva Community Fund will make a difference by giving positive encouragement to older people to take up cycling, or return to cycling, benefiting their physical health through activity, and their well-being through pleasant social contact in the open air.

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