Andrews of Stratford resident Phyllis MacDonald first started cycling in her 60s.
At the time, she was newly retired and looking for something to fill her days. She joined a cycling group and began spending her weekends traversing the Confederation Trail.
Eventually, cycling became a shared pastime with her grandson Zachary. The two would bike the entirety of the Confederation Trail in increments, meeting each week where they’d left off previously and moving on from there. During the peak of her cycling years, Phyllis completed the trail five times.
Since moving into Andrews Senior Care she assumed her trail days were over, instead exercising on one of the home’s stationary bikes three days a week.
However, Phyllis is back on the road, thanks to a pilot project between Andrews Senior Care, Cycling without Age and Bike Friendly Communities Prince Edward Island.
Through this partnership, Andrews acquired an electric trishaw, a three-wheeled bike that allows seniors and people with mobility issues to experience cycling with the help of a trained pilot. The bike includes a large enclosed seat with safety straps where the senior can sit while the pilot handles the peddling and navigation.
“Being a cyclist myself and knowing how much I enjoy the Confederation Trail and cycling around P.E.I., I would be out cycling and thinking ‘how can I get this resident (Phyllis) back on the trails,’” said Andrews of Stratford program coordinator Sharon Woods-Bryenton. “That was in my mind for years.”
Now, after a more than three-year process, Sharon is finally able to start taking residents out for rides starting this month.
“Every resident here has had a bicycle or their family had a bicycle and they all loved to cycle,” Sharon said. “As we age, our mobility changes. Cycling can be very difficult for a senior to do. Getting this trishaw, we can get them out like they’re cycling again. They’ll feel the breeze, they’ll see the sights. I think (the benefits) are going to be immeasurable.”
Phyllis, who rode the bike for the first time on May 30, agreed.
“It was grand,” she said of the experience. “It will be an adventure. You don’t get too many adventures at my age.”
While residents are eager to start, pilots are required to undergo considerable training on how to ride the trishaw safely.
“Pilots will have inspection sheets to go through every time to make sure the bike is safe before even getting on to ride and they will be taught to ride this properly,” said Sharon. “It is an electric bike, so (pilots) will have to learn the different speeds and features (unique to this bike) to keep it safe.”
Currently there are five volunteer pilots, however Sharon expects to see that grow.
“I think the community is going to be really happy to see the seniors out riding,” she said. “I think we’re going to get more volunteers. I think seniors in the community are going to love to see it. Eventually I hope we can get more of these trishaws in our community in Stratford, in Charlottetown and more of (Andrews) Community Care and Long-term Care homes. It’s a wonderful way to get our seniors back out in the summer. Not just for walks or a drive but an actual bike ride again.”