Age should never be a barrier to any one of us enjoying life. For many, we can still enjoy some exercise - be it a gentle walk in the park, a short cycle ride or a few lengths of the pool.
But some older people are physically less able and getting out and about proves much more challenging. Too often this can then mean looking at the same four walls and lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Empowering our communities is at the heart of our ambition for a more prosperous and fairer Scotland and I can’t think of many more enjoyable ways for our older generation to feel healthier and connected with the outside world around them than the “Cycling Without Age” project.
The Cycling Without Age movement began in Denmark in 2012 and encourages volunteers to take older people out for bike rides, using comfortable and safe trishaws. The scheme is now operating in over 30 countries around the world, including here in Scotland, where the project was initially adopted by Falkirk charity Communities along the Carron (CATCA). A successful pilot, funded by the Scottish Government and the European Social Fund has been running since March this year.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of experiencing a trishaw ride for myself when I travelled around Dollar Park with local care home residents Willie Kerr and Jean Blair. I was there visiting the Falkirk initiative to announce that the Scottish Government will provide additional funding and will work with Cycling Without Age to roll out the project across Scotland.
I’m pleased to say that this news was received enthusiastically by the project’s 20 year old organiser Fraser Johnston, whose film of him taking care home resident Mary Duncan for a bike ride for BBC Three’s Amazing Human series, has already received over 20 million views online. On meeting him he told me that it’s such a simple idea but one that brings huge benefits to the older people he meets and allows them to enjoy a sense of freedom, fresh air and friendship.
The additional support from the Scottish Government means that Scotland will be the first country to have ‘Cycling Without Age’ rolled out across the nation. The roll out will be led, like the Falkirk project, by local communities so that it works for them. With the enthusiastic involvement of the many local areas who have already expressed interest in the project I know that we’ll see many more older people enjoy a cycle ride and once again “feel the wind in their hair.”
Jeane Freeman is the Social Security Minister. This article appeared in the Sunday Post.