Cycling people

Older people are feeling the wind in their hair with cycling

A cycling initiative that brings older people to the great outdoors has issued a new report.

The report explains the benefits of a scheme that takes older people living in care homes out for a cycle - on specially designed trishaws.

A Heriot-Watt research team has been working with Cycling Without Age since the first group was established in Scotland – with a trial set up in Falkirk in 2017.

Researchers will continue the work looking at the mental, physical, health and wellbeing benefits – as well as the effects on mood, anxiety, social engagement, loneliness and isolation.

Cycling Without Age is a global initiative that began in Denmark in 2012 and has since spread to over 40 countries.

It is a transformational project which brings older people who might be less able to get outdoors back into their communities through the power of cycling.

Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology, led the evaluation of the Falkirk trial.

He said: “The benefits reported by those involved ranged from improvements in mood to benefits for social skills, as well as providing a positive experience to look forward to and opportunities to experience the outdoors again.

“Working closely with Cycling Without Age Scotland, we’re already onto the next phase of research, focussing on the specific benefits for mood and wellbeing”.

Interviews and focus groups were conducted by researcher Janet Biggar who spoke with care home residents, their families, care home staff and Cycling Without Age volunteers.

The report was formally launched at the Scottish Parliament at a Cycling Without Age Scotland event, hosted by Angus MacDonald MSP.

As well as launching the report, the event marked the first official year of the project as the nationwide rollout continues.

Christine Bell, Executive Officer for Cycling Without Age Scotland, said: “Everyone involved in the initiative has first-hand experience of the benefits it can bring, but by working on this first evaluation we’ve started to capture those experiences. As the activity continues to grow, we hope to support many more people who are less able to get out experience the joy that comes from feeling ‘the wind in their hair’ again!

“The support from the Scottish Government has allowed Cycling Without Age Scotland to enable chapters to get wheels rolling in the heart of local communities around the country. The project is enabling people of all ages who experience social isolation and mobility restrictions to get outdoors, feel the wind in their hair, feel empowered and above all, become part of their wider communities”.

The report can now be accessed from The Ageing Lab website (http://www1.hw.ac.uk/mediaservices/pageflip/CWA_Evaluation_Report_2018/); hard copies can be requested by contacting the team. The research continues with support from the Scottish Government via Cycling Without Age Scotland.