Age-Friendly Cold Lake hopes to have seniors outdoors with the wind in their hair this summer thanks to a grant from the federal government.
According to program manager Diane Stonehocker, the non-profit group received a $25,000 grant through the New Horizons for Seniors Program, which funds projects that support the social participation and inclusion of seniors.
Between $8,000 and $9,000 of the grant will go towards purchasing a trishaw bike, with the remainder funding other activities the group has planned for 2021. Trishaw bikes are electric bicycles that feature a seat at the front for one or two passengers to sit in and are driven from the rear by a driver.
“One of the ways to ensure or to at least help contribute to health as people get older is making sure that they are socially connected. That they’re not isolated and lonely. And so the trishaw is to give the opportunity to seniors who might otherwise be not going out very much the opportunity to go for a ride around the community on the open air,” said Stonehocker.
She said the idea of bringing a trishaw to Cold Lake was spearheaded by Sandra Evans, who sits on the board for Age-Friendly Cold Lake. According to Evans, she first encountered the Cycling Without Age program on YouTube, but was immediately reminded of her own parents in their later years.
“My mom used to love to get out to walk. Hikes and everything else. And then when osteoarthritis and osteoporosis set in really bad it was hard for her to walk, and she couldn’t get out into the fresh air, and she couldn’t see people. The isolation set in and then her health deteriorated from there,” said Evans.
“To see the effects of just being able to get out and have that wind in your face and see the birds and the lake and people moving, it lifted people’s spirits. And so when I saw the program, I thought this needs to come to Cold Lake.”
Evans noted that for a lot of seniors living in lodges or assisted living facilities, they don’t have family nearby or involved enough to get out much. The trishaw program will enable them to be out in the community more, and also function as a conversation starter with people they encounter during their rides.
“Take your coffee with you, or stop for ice cream. Each ride is between half an hour and an hour and a half long. And we will have routes. So, the one in Cold Lake will most likely be all along the water and down the Millennium Trail,” said Evans.
She said she hopes to be able to expand the program to Bonnyville in the future, but for now she’s excited to get it going in Cold Lake.
According to Stonehocker, they hope to have the bike delivered and the program running by the summer. She said it remains to be seen exactly how it will function in light of COVID-19 restrictions, but they will need volunteers once they can get started.
Food insecurity isn’t just about money
Age-Friendly Cold Lake is also quite involved with addressing food insecurity among seniors according to Stonehocker. She said when people hear of food insecurity, usually, they assume it’s an issue of having money to buy food, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“The other [cause] is lack of interest in cooking anymore, they’re living on their own so they just don’t cook. Maybe the ability to get to the store. Maybe taking medication that makes food unpalatable and so they don’t want to eat. Some seniors as they get older have difficulty swallowing and that makes food difficult. And so what happens if the seniors are living on their own or even with a caregiver, they’re not getting the nutrition that they need in order to maintain good health,” said Stonehocker.
She said the group has been sponsoring Meals on Wheels through Cold Lake FCSS as well as delivering frozen meals from the Edmonton-based Heart to Home. She said the grant they had through the province for that is now finished and they are looking for corporate support to continue subsidies for that program.