By: Adriana Mendez
Posted at 6:07 AM, Aug 25, 2023
and last updated 7:11 AM, Aug 25, 2023
BURLINGTON, Wis. — Nonprofit organization Dementia Friendly Community Initiative of Walworth County is bringing smiles, stories, and a sense of connection to seniors through its program Cycling Without Age.
The program, which originated in Denmark, combines the joy of the outdoors with the nostalgia of cycling.
The organization was founded by Eric Russow and his wife Bernadette and provides mobility, socialization, and the joy of cycling to those who might otherwise be unable to experience it.
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“The idea behind it is to get them out of isolation,” said Eric Russow Secretary, & Treasurer with the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative of Walworth County.
Volunteers, known as “pilots,” offer rides on specialized three-wheeled, pedal-powered bikes called trishaws.
The program is so beloved and the impact of Cycling Without Age has been profound. Volunteers went from providing four hundred rides to a thousand rides this year alone.
At the Oak Park Place Assisted Living facility in Burlington, residents like Velma and Jinny were able to leave the confines of their daily routines by feeling the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces on a warm Wisconsin day. For Velma, the best part of the experience is talking with others.
Among the riders, there were familiar faces like John and Marlis, a couple celebrating 64 years of marriage, who relish the chance to spend quality time together.
“It’s been fun,” said Marlis.
Charlie Gitzinger, a first-time rider and retired Army veteran and municipal judge said he was thrilled by the experience but playfully suggested an improvement.
“It was nice going around the place, but it would’ve been nicer if we would’ve driven over to Adrian’s for some frozen custard,” said Charlie.
As the pilots pedal the riders, volunteers like Severin Knudsen find the experience to be deeply rewarding.
“I think it fills my heart as much as it fills their heart,” said Severin.
The rides not only provide a chance for seniors to enjoy the outdoors but also an opportunity to share stories and memories with their pilots.
Throughout the day many smiles were seen and new memories made. Cycling provides a connection to our most cherished members of society.
“I just hope it brings them the memories of a good time. These are people who have given us a lot of things, and we have benefited from them,” said Bernadette President of the Dementia Friendly Community Initiative of Walworth County.
The program is looking for more volunteers and would love to have high school students involved