An Australian-first research project, based on the experiences of Townsville aged care residents participating in Cycling Without Age, has reinforced the benefits of trishaw rides for aged care residents.
The Bolton Clarke Research Institute study, published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, was conducted with residents, families and volunteers involved with the Cycling Without Age program at Bolton Clarke’s Rowes Bay residential aged care community in Townsville.
The program involves volunteers taking residents and their family members for trishaw rides along the Rowes Bay foreshore in purpose-built electric tricycles driven by trained pilots from the cycling community.
During the 12-week study period, 30 residents took a total of 216 rides.
Key benefits included eliciting memories and new experiences, giving rise to positive emotions, interacting with the community and a break from daily routine.
Cycle pilots, family members, employees and residents all reported positive outcomes that lasted beyond the ride itself.
“Before we left, my mother could barely keep her eyes open,”one family member said.
“Once we got out, she was wide awake, she was happy, she was waving – it gave her a new lease on life.”
Riding along The Strand reconnected residents with familiar places from their past with one resident saying “oh, the memories [it] brought back.”
“You feel good … mentally it makes you feel happy,” another participant said.
Researchers found social engagement with the broader community was another benefit.
“The residents like waving and talking to people — I’ve often stopped and they’ve had a chat to other people. They like the interaction, the socialising,” one pilot said.
Researchers said residents reported feeling happy during the ride and “better” afterwards and said they felt “a sense of freedom” during the ride.
“Similar to qualitative studies conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom, our results show that a Cycling Without Age program could be an effective non-pharmacological treatment for depression and dementia,” they said.
The project is now part of regular activities at Bolton Clarke’s Rowes Bay community.
The research report is available here.