St Hugh’s Hospital Launches Cycling Scheme to Combat Isolation

A cycling scheme that aims to reconnect elderly people with their community has launched in Cleethorpes and Grimsby thanks to a partnership of healthcare providers including St Hugh’s Hospital.

According to research by Campaign to End Loneliness more than nine million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the population – say they are always or often lonely.

To help mitigate loneliness and social isolation in the community, St Hugh’s Hospital and NAViGO have collectively invested just over £11,000 in two Triobikes to bring the Cycling Without Age scheme to the area.

Originating in Copenhagen in 2012, the project has already brought together more than 10,000 trained volunteer cycling pilots (riders) and 50,000 elderly people, who share a journey through their communities and the surrounding countryside, reconnecting them with nature and one another.

The battery-assisted bikes are powered by a pilot at the back, with up to two passengers up front.

St Hugh’s officially tested theirs out in Cleethorpes on Tuesday (18th December). A total of four volunteers enjoyed a ride along the promenade courtesy of the hospital’s Facilities Manager and Community Officer Gary Allington and professional cyclists Tom Stewart and Russ Downing.

Gary said: “Within just a few seconds of being on the Triobike, our passengers started chatting away and reminiscing on times gone by, which is exactly the effect we hope the rides will have.

“We want to help those who might not otherwise be able to get out much, if at all, to remember what it’s like to feel the benefits of fresh air and social interaction. And the fact that all of our passengers and riders had big smiles on their faces even in less than ideal weather conditions says it all!”

St Hugh’s is working with Friendship at Home, a charity which encourages the befriending and support of older people, to make full use of the programme.

Gary added: “Our colleagues at Friendship at Home are compiling a list of people they know are interested in getting involved in the rides, which will take them – in the comfort and security of a Triobike – out and about for an hour through Grimsby and the surrounding areas.

“However, we want to reach as many people as possible so are encouraging anyone interested in taking part in the scheme – as a passenger or volunteer pilot – to get in touch.”

St Hugh’s and NAViGo will house the Triobikes on two sites in Grimsby – including the hospital on Peaks Lane – while St Andrew’s Hospice will provide administrative support for the scheme.

Ashley Brown, Hospital Director at St Hugh’s, added: “I’m extremely proud to be supporting this project and, as Gary said, the impact it has is immediate.

“We all know that simply being outdoors in the elements boosts health and wellbeing, but the opportunity to reap the benefits is severely restricted for isolated individuals.

“Joining a ride on the Trioboke makes this possible and we have already seen some friendships begin to develop. On reflection, the laughing and joking we saw between individuals who have up to a 70-year age difference is quite remarkable; the inner child emerged from all involved.

“This project is a great example of how our local healthcare organisations are collaborating to add real value to the community we serve. I’m excited to take the Triobike out very soon – this week showed that the weather isn’t a limiting factor.”

Mike Reeve, NAViGO Director of Operations, added: “We are delighted to be a part of this fantastic joint venture promoting healthy, inclusive and positive ageing.

“The initiative will give our service users, who are often limited in their ability to get out and about, the opportunity to experience the local area in comfort. Our staff are looking forward to taking people on a trip down memory lane, as part of reminiscence therapy.”

Anyone interested in volunteering their time to be a Triobike pilot should contact Gary Allington on 01472 251100. Full training and ongoing support will be provided.