New bike program aims to help elderly with memory loss

Who was holding the back of your bike when you learned to ride? Chances are, it was a parent. Now a special cycling program is giving some children the opportunity to return that favor to their elderly parents decades later.

They say you never forget to ride a bike. That memory is the key to a new program that's helping senior citizens with dementia and memory loss.

"Lois grew up not too far from here. They went swimming and biking and were outside all the time. They probably only had one bike to share with five girls, so there was a little bit of competition," Cheryl Heilman, Lois' daughter said.

And now Lois is back on a bike again. That's thanks to Cycling Without Age, a program that has grown from Denmark to 28 countries around the world getting seniors back on cycles.

"So they're all biking together and doing what they did all of their lives, but they're still experiencing it, just a little differently—but the same experience and end result," Stephanie Burris, Oakwood Village Life Enrichment Director said.

Julie Hyland was one of the first to volunteer to learn how to pilot the motorized rickshaws.

"I just fell in love with it. I knew it was something good to do and right to do and that I have the physical ability to help people," Julie said.

Cheryl sometimes pilots her mom and other times rides alongside her.

"It’s really just nice to do something outside that’s different than what we do often when we're here," Cheryl said. "And when people see us, it makes them smile.

"They ring the bell and they wave, and it's kind of like you feel like you're in a parade when you're riding or you're piloting," Stephanie said.

Even those with advanced care needs can benefit from a ride.

:Some people aren't verbal anymore. So just seeing a smile on their face or maybe, you know , they had a furrowed brow and they're now relaxed or just closing their eyes and just taking in nature is, it's all worth it," Stephanie said.

The pilots are all volunteer and they can always use more. To find out if there’s a program near you check out Cycling Without Age.

About the Author...
Pam Tauscher
Pam Tauscher is a familiar face to Madison TV viewers, having worked as a reporter and broadcaster for 12 years on NBC15.