Cycling without Age: How a Danish bike fan brought pedal power to the elderly

Blair Crawford, The Ottawa Citizen

Even Ole Kassow thought he was crazy when he showed up unannounced at a Copenhagen nursing home on a three-wheeled rickshaw bike and offered to take anyone who wanted for a bike ride. Five years later, Cycling without Age is a worldwide phenomena, operating in 38 countries, including Canada, with the help of more than 10,000 volunteers. Total up the number of kilometres Kassow’s volunteer rickshaw “pilots” have pedalled their elderly passengers, and you have a journey three times around the world. “For me, cycling is part of my life. It’s part of what makes me happy,” Kassow said Wednesday as a keynote speaker at the Humanizing Health Care International Conference at the Fairmont Château Laurier. Kassow would often cycle past the nursing home on his way to work and saw residents sitting outdoors but immobile. One day, he borrowed the rickshaw and showed up at the desk with his offer. His first passenger was Gertrude, an elderly resident who asked him to pedal her down to the Copenhagen harbourfront. On the way she told Kassow about raising her family in Greenland and sailing to Denmark with her children for summer holidays.“When I came back I said, ‘That was amazing. All the stories I heard.’ And the staff said to me, ‘But Gertrude doesn’t talk …

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Local connection to the story: Bruyère Continuing Care has two of the $9,000, Danish-built rickshaws in use at its Elisabeth Bruyère Hospital in downtown Ottawaand its Saint-Louis Résidence in Orléans.