Wheels for Wellbeing work with a broad range of people with health issues which would traditionally be a barrier to them cycling. Through providing opportunities for those people to cycle, it aims to bring a range of therapeutic and health benefits to participants.
Wheels for Wellbeing run a weekly all inclusive cycling session at the Ladywell Day Centre in Lewisham. However, the group found that for some potential participants these sessions were not suitable. In particular it found that those with dementia would benefit from a quieter and calmer atmosphere. They have therefore designed bespoke sessions for dementia patients using the centre.
The sessions use specialised bikes, in particular side by side recumbent bikes for two, with a participant cycling alongside a member of the delivery team. This one to one engagement allows for a comfortable and stable cycling experience. It provides a more relaxed atmosphere in which participants can build a rapport with those they are cycling with. The delivery team is able to understand the needs and preferences of the individual participants to provide the most suitable experience for each person and better understand feedback.
Participants cycle indoors and outdoors to provide variation. In particular, the outside sections connect the participants to nature, the sights and sounds of which can act as a ‘memory jog’ to earlier times in participants’ lives. It is intended that where sessions are held indoor only, for examples in the colder months, pictures and music will be used for the same purpose.
The group has partnered with nearby Abbey Manor School, which caters for 11 to 19 year olds who do not conform to conventional education. Young people from the school are provided the opportunity to work in a responsible role where they can build trust with both the delivery staff and participants, which is an additional benefit of the project. This partnership has brought an element of intergenerational engagement to the project, which both the young people and dementia sufferers enjoy.
The sessions are enjoyed by all those involved. “We done well … wow wow wow!” one dementia patient said at the end of her ride. Nearby residents have commented on the benefit that participants obviously enjoy. “I’ve never heard so much laughter from [the centre]” one neighbour commented “What a brilliant idea”.
The group will be expanding the number of sessions and participants taking place over the second and third years of the project. Where appropriate, some participants will be given the opportunity to ride individually on the tricycles stored at the centre. Where this is the case these individuals will continue to be worked with on a one to one basis to ensure that they continue to receive the full benefit of the sessions.
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