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Cycling Without Age

Posted On: July 24, 2018

Enhancing the Lives of Seniors – The Ottawa Experience

What images come to mind when thinking about community? Strolling around, admiring the neighbors’ gardens, seeing children play, walking to work or to shops… These thoughts about a community are all related to enjoying the outdoor environment. What happens when someone is held back from enjoying this outdoor environment? The risk of isolation and loneliness grows.

As people age, their bodies often become frailer and their range of movement can become more restricted, making it much harder to get outdoors. This would cause isolation and loneliness in anyone, let alone the often frail people living in long-term care.

Recognizing the benefits, Therapeutic Support Services staff at Bruyère Continuing Care decided to look for ways to get residents outdoors. When the idea of of Cycling Without Age came about, they could not turn down the proposal.

Cycling Without Age bike taking residents in forest. What is Cycling Without Age?

Cycling Without Age (CWA) is an innovative program that helps seniors stay active and stay connected with their communities. Originating from Demark, CWA makes it possible for seniors or those with mobility challenges to get back on bicycles, allowing them to enjoy their scenic communities. This initiative started in 2012, and has expanded to 28 different countries.

CWA uses a special 3-wheeled rickshaw bike. These “trishaws” have a two-seater passenger carriage in the front. Volunteer “pilots” who sit on a bike in the back, propelling the bike forward. The bike pilot can easily chat with the passengers, often connecting people from different generations through conversation, storytelling, and reminiscing.

Cycling Without Age at Bruyère

Bruyère Continuing Care (Bruyère) opened Ontario’s first CWA chapter in 2016, in collaboration with community partner Gary Bradshaw. The Ontario Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care (CLRI) at Bruyère supported the program evaluation. Bruyère runs two long-term care homes, Saint-Louis Residence and Élisabeth Bruyère Residence, and also operates the Bruyère Village for independent seniors’ living, all located in Ottawa.

Bruyère’s Therapeutic Support Services Department runs the CWA program at all of these sites, and has had tremendous success.

Senior in CWA bike overlooking Parliament.
In the first summer season of the program, the CWA program served 46 residents of Saint-Louis Residence, or 1 in 4 who live in the Residence, as well as 48 Bruyère Village tenants, family members and friends who accompanied residents on their outings. With such a high demand, over 121 hours were pedaled in that first summer alone. Alternating between more than 34 trained volunteer bike pilots, the average ride was 60 minutes long and each participating resident had an average of three rides in the warm summer months.

The first season was an overall success, with a 99% satisfaction rate. Participants commented on their enjoyment of the rides and the beauty of nature, bringing laughter and smiles as they waved at the neighbours passing them on the bike path and in the community. Pilots shared in that enjoyment, loving the exercise, nature, and discussions with new friends. The launch was similarly successful at Élisabeth Bruyère Residence in 2017, proving that this program can run in both homey suburban and busy urban settings.

Want More Information? Watch our Webinar!

Most recently, the Ontario CLRI hosted a webinar covering the CWA program. Presented by Kim Durst-Mackenzie (Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteer Coordinator, Bruyère) and Gary Bradshaw (Community Partner), the webinar focuses on the concept of CWA and why it is an essential program, as well as offers a more detailed explanation of the ins-and-outs of running CWA in long-term care homes with a large group of dedicated volunteers.

A program brochure is also available, outlining useful tool, policies, procedures, and evaluation approaches.

Shorter versions of this article can be found in AdvantAge Ontario’s July Action Update.

To view any of the resources listed above, please visit the CWA resource page.


This article draws on the findings of the evaluation of the first season of the Bruyère Cycling Without Age program, that was partially supported by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-term Care. Opinions expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect those of the Government of Ontario.

About the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care

The Ontario CLRI is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and hosted at Baycrest Health Sciences, Bruyère, and the Schelgel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

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