Local Doctor Combats Elderly Loneliness Through Cycling

November 7, 2017 · 3 minute read

Feeling lonely sucks.

Part of being human is interacting in a meaningful way with other humans. When this basic need is not met, it feels awful because our shared DNA is hard-wired for us to want to hang with other people.

For most of us, if we ever feel lonely we can go into the next room and see our family, call up a buddy, or fire off a text to see what folks are up to. Heck, most of us are so busy with work and family that we really never experience loneliness. Or, if you are like me, after you have heard “Daddy!” for the 63rd time that day, being lonely for two minutes doesn’t sound all that bad.

However, there are too many people in Richmond who are truly lonely — people who have become isolated because they grew old, got sick, or became injured. They don’t have friends to hang with, their families are gone save an occasional weekend visit.

Cycling Without Age is a program that helps end loneliness with bike rides. “The right to wind in your hair” is our slogan, and it could not be more appropriate. The program takes people who are stuck in nursing homes or long-term care facilities and gets them out on the road in a specially designed bike called a trishaw.  Sun on their face, wind in their hair, experiencing the freedom that cycling provides.

The program was started in Copenhagen, Denmark by a gentleman named Ole Klassow who rode his bike every day to work. Along the way, he would pass a 90-year-old man who sat in the same place every day. One day, Ole showed up on a trishaw and asked the old man if he would like a bike ride. Off they went, and Cycling Without Age was born. That bike ride has grown into over 300 Cycling Without Age chapters on 6 continents.

I am incredibly excited to bring this movement to RVA.  The first trishaw has arrived, and I have just begun giving rides to residents of St. Francis Home, which is located near Forest Hill Park. My mission with St. Francis is to share with the residents the joy of being outside on a bike, a relaxed conversation, and friendship. Simply put, to let them know they don’t have to be lonely; they are not forgotten.

My vision is that Cycling Without Age Richmond becomes an awesome force for our community, with trishaws cruising all over the city, spreading the joy that cycling brings to those who would otherwise be stuck inside. I envision rides for sick or disabled kids, shut-ins, or veterans who couldn’t normally experience cycling. Why can’t this be big?

Want to help? 

I’m hoping that as you read this something inside you will spark. I’m looking for folks who could take someone on a bike ride. Get the wind in their hair, the sun on your face, and share it with someone who otherwise would never get that feeling. In Denmark, they are called pilots.

If you, or someone you know would like to be a pilot, please send me an email at travis1969@gmail.com. If we can get a gang of people to volunteer for even an hour or two a month, this could be amazing. I will be setting up a website, Facebook page and a sign-up sheet, so stay tuned.

If bike riding isn’t your thing, and you want to show your support financially, we do have 501(c)(3) status and have set up a GoFundMe campaign to purchase several more bikes and to spread the vibe to more folks. Donate here.

If you have a couple of extra minutes, this is the video that got me inspired to set up the Richmond chapter. One of our local networks has expressed interest in filming a story here in RVA. So, stay tuned!