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A little slice of Denmark for elderly Australians

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Life does not end when you turn seventy-five.

A healthy lifestyle, however, is important for people of all ages and is especially true for an ageing population. One of the most important aspects of this involves spending some quality time outside in the fresh air.

With this in mind, the Danish Embassador Tom Nørring, in conjunction with Pedal Power ACT and with the help of a $20 000 community grant from Canberra’s IRT Foundation, has launched a unique program in Canberra: Cycling Without Age.

The concept of Cycling Without Age belongs to Ole Kassow, who established the movement in Denmark in 2012. Ole was looking for a solution to help elderly people to get back on their bicycles, as he explains below in his TED Talk. The cargo bike was the perfect answer, and Ole started offering free bike rides to local nursing home residents.

Now, Cycling without Age is a regular program across Denmark and in twenty-eight countries around the world with over a thousand cargo bikes and more than 6000 volunteer “pilots” taking part.

Cycling is immensely popular in Denmark with over 37% of Danes using bicycles on a regular basis, which is exemplified by Copenhagen’s goal of being the first Carbon Neutral City by 2025.

“Cycling is good for the environment. It is also good for our health. For those politicians who are looking to save a little bit, please get more people on bikes, because that means fewer people in the hospitals,” says Danish Ambassador to Australia Tom Nørring.

“The speciality of the program is that it is bringing an elderly people all together for the healthy activity as they don’t have much opportunity to get into the fresh air and to have social interaction with people,” explains Michelle Garden, Senior Commercial Advisor, Embassy of Denmark. “Therefore, they [will] have an opportunity to go to that places they are not ordinary [going].”

The launch of the program has received a very positive response from the Canberra community so far.

The launch of Cycling Without Age

The launch of Cycling Without Age in Canberra

Over 100 people attended the launch at IRT Kangara Waters, where two purpose-built cargo bikes (trishaws) piloted by Pedal Power ACT volunteers kicked off the movement in Australia. The launch was also attended by ACT Minister for Health and Minister for Transport and City Services, Meegan Fitzharris MLA and ACT Minister for Veterans and Seniors, Gordon Ramsey MLA.

The Danish Ambassador was pleased to see that two fundamental Danish values – healthy living and sustainability, have received a positive response in Canberra.

The program itself is based on generosity and kindness. The Pedal Power organisation, which is responsible for hiring pilots, is always welcoming new people. Anyone who would like to dedicate some of their free time to taking elders for a free bike ride can sign up through a simple booking system as often as they like.

“Pedal Power ACT is proud to be involved in such an important initiative, keeping all Canberrans moving and on their bikes is our goal, and we are pleased that Cycling Without Age will allow more people to ride more often,” says Pedal Power ACT Vice President, Jeff Ibbotson.

From now on, all elders from the IRT Kangara Waters Community and less-able people can join and participate in Cycling Without Age.

“IRT Foundation is thrilled to support Pedal Power ACT and Cycling Without Age to bring this active ageing movement to Australia”, says IRT Foundation Manager, Toby Dawson.

According to Michelle Garden, the Danish Embassy is looking forward to spreading the program across the other Australian states and territories, as this activity can offer a fresh new beginning for those who were previously unable to leave their nursing homes to enjoy any substantial outdoor, fresh-air activities.

Find more information about volunteering for Cycling Without Age here.

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