‘Feeling the wind in your hair is lovely’ – Cycling project gives Sheffield care home residents a taste of the great outdoors

Care home residents in Sheffield will be able to enjoy the city’s green spaces on a new trike aimed at combating loneliness and increasing access to the great outdoors.

Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 16:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 15:07 pm
Volunteer Susan Gillie takes Margaret Rishbeth and Dianna Derbyshire for a ride at the official launch of Cycling Without Age at Weston Park.Picture Scott Merrylees

Cycling Without Age is an international project which started in Denmark to support access to nature for older people who would otherwise struggle to get out of the house.

They currently have around 1,200 sites around the world, including 15 in the UK, and now, one in Sheffield.

Volunteer Susan Gillie takes Margaret Rishbeth and Dianna Derbyshire for a ride at the official launch of Cycling Without Age at Weston Park.Picture Scott Merrylees

Each site has a motorised trike, with Sheffield’s being officially opened by Mi Amigo memorial hero Tony Foulds, aged 82, who was also one of the first to be taken for a ride.

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Before formally cutting the ribbon at the ceremony at Weston Park, he described the experience as ‘smashing’ and ‘really smooth’.

The trike is the brainchild of Clare Rishbeth, a landscape architecture lecturer at the University of Sheffield, who has researched the benefits the outdoors can have on people’s mood.

She said the ‘little jaunts’ they would be taking people on were ‘fun’, but could also improve mental health and decrease loneliness.

Volunteer Susan Gillie takes Margaret Rishbeth and Dianna Derbyshire for a ride at the official launch of Cycling Without Age at Weston Park.Picture Scott Merrylees

“Care home residents are some of the people who have the least chance to get out into the outdoors,” she said.

“With this you have all the sensory aspects of nature like the wind in your hair and like today a bit of chill on your face.

“You can also talk about the things you see like birds and squirrels and you are quite close to your fellow passenger so it is a loneliness project in a way as well.

“There was a lady here earlier in a wheelchair from a dementia care home and when she came she was not making eye contact at all.

“But after she had been on the bike she was beaming. It was really moving.”

Claire and her team began raising money in earnest in the Autumn, reaching the £7,000 they needed thanks to a large donation from funding organisation Awards For All.

She said the bike will last them a decade and they have already set their sites on buying another so they can cover more areas of the city.

Initially they will be working with four care homes - Hallamshire, Grange Crescent, Twelve Trees and Sunnybank - with the trike being kept at Nuffield Health on Ecclesall Road.

The next few months will be about attracting more volunteers - or ‘pilots’ as they called them - and working with the care homes to develop routes and timetables.

“As long as you can cycle you can volunteer,” she said.

“It is really as much about finding people who are chatty as it is about finding good cyclists.

“Hopefully it will attract people who wouldn’t be attracted to volunteering that was just sitting in a care home.”

Also there lending his support was Jonathan Powell, recreation officer for Brtitish Cycling in Sheffield.

He said: “At British Cycling we work with tiny tots on balance bikes and if we do that all the way up to working with older people then that will be fantastic.

“I think it is an absolutely brilliant venture. It is about having fun.”