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Giving Back To Society: Cycling Without Age – Helping The Elderly Feel The Wind In Their Hair
It is generally agreed that 2020 was an utterly lousy year. We are not out of the woods yet, but as we cross into 2021, we can look to new beginnings with renewed hope and optimism.
However, let us not forget the less privileged among us who are in greater need of uplifting.
To that end, smart-towkay will be doing a feature series on a few charitable non-profit organisations and social enterprises as a way to welcome the new year and encourage our readers and members to consider doing what they can for those in need.
There is nothing like a global pandemic to drive home the realisation that sometimes problems are so big that the only way to overcome them is to stay united as one people. We are only as strong as our weakest link.
Looking after the elderly
During this Covid-19 crisis, it is well-known that the elderly have been among the most vulnerable of demographics. Social distancing has been particularly important for them, and the concern for their personal safety has, unfortunately but justifiably, curtailed a large chunk of their social lives. Other obstacles exist too, such as the fact that many senior citizens are unfamiliar with (and, frankly, do not enjoy) using technology to utilise new communications tools.
As Singapore slowly extricates itself from the perils of the coronavirus, social programmes that look to safeguard not just the physical health but also the mental health of the aged comes into sharper focus. One of the ways to achieve the latter is to find safe and conducive ways to reduce social isolation for them.
Cycling Without Age
Cycling Without Age is a movement that began in Denmark in 2012. The premise was, and remains, refreshingly simple. Pair elderly folks who suffer from limited mobility with volunteers who will take them on trishaw rides, allowing them to experience their neighbourhood while having someone to have a conversation with. This promotes social cohesion and allows both volunteers and elderly residents to feel that they are part of an active local community.
As an activity, going on trishaw rides is neither very time-consuming nor requiring monumental amounts of effort for participants. Cycling is a popular pastime in and of itself, and the potential to hear interesting stories from the elderly residents who have been living in the area for very long is appealing too. Meanwhile, getting on a trishaw for a relaxing ride should not be too physically taxing on the participants. As such, it is not surprising to see that this grassroots movement has become very popular. Indeed, by March 2020, Cycling Without Age has over 2,200 chapter locations across 35 different countries around the world.
The Singapore chapter was officially set up as a charity with IPC status in 2017 by Aaron Yeoh, a social entrepreneur who helped to create and organise multiple non-profit organisations. Aaron, who currently serves as Chairman of the board, noted that the world “is not exactly designed for empathy, especially in first-world countries that move at such a fast pace.” As such, his aim in setting up Singapore’s Cycling Without Age chapter was twofold: for the elderly and differently abled to experience a deeper level of social connection while also helping to encourage Singaporeans to slow down, spend quality time with the differently abled, and experience the world differently.
Seeing the sights in Singapore
The organisation is responsible for raising funds to procure electric-powered trishaws. It also works with various partners, such as St Luke’s Eldercare and various other nursing homes and welfare services centres, to sign up their beneficiaries for these trishaw rides. It will then make arrangements for volunteers to pick up their passengers.
Each ride usually lasts around one to one and a half hours. Participants will usually be travelling around the numerous national parks in Singapore. Cycling Without Age Singapore will also work with sponsors to make certain places of interest available for more special trips. These locations include Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa.
While on these trips, volunteers and participants enjoy a shared experience, converse and swap stories, and build meaningful relationships with one another. Intergenerational bonding, in particular, is highly encouraged.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions that came with it, more than 7000 rides were clocked in the two years since the organisation was founded.
Even at the height of the pandemic, when nursing homes become out of bounds to any visitors, Cycling Without Age Singapore continued to look for innovative solutions to give their elderly patrons a chance to explore Singapore, albeit with a more limited social aspect to it.
The result was a collaboration with Mind Palace, a social enterprise that develops virtual reality (VR) technology for seniors, to develop a VR trishaw ride. All the seniors then had to do was to put on a VR headset and they could enjoy the view, if not the whole experience, of a trishaw ride around places such as Bishan Park and Admiralty Park.
Opportunities and responsibilities for volunteers
When one opts to become a pilot (cyclist) to ferry the elderly, they become responsible for the safety of the latter. As such, volunteers must first undergo training conducted by a Cycling Without Age trainer and exhibit the ability to cycle slowly and safely. This makes the organisation vested in their pilots and this also means that the organisation will similarly look for a certain amount of commitment from its pilots in return.
Volunteers can also offer their time to contribute to the organisation in other roles. These include fundraising, helping to promote the organisation, event planning, marketing, and more. Cycling Without Age Singapore currently encompasses over 600 volunteers to help with its expanding operations, so people looking to get involved can be assured that there will be a suitable role for them no matter where their strengths lie.
If one wishes to contribute to Cycling Without Age Singapore but cannot afford the time to volunteer, donations are also highly welcome.
Cycling Without Age Singapore is currently looking to raise S$2 million to expand its current fleet of trishaws so as to serve more seniors and other beneficiaries. If one wishes to make a financial contribution towards this endeavour, they may click here to find out more.
Meanwhile, corporate entities who wish to partner with Cycling Without Age Singapore to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities can get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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