October 4, 2022
Robert Parmenter, left, and Pat Duggan (Royal Canadian Legion Fort McMurray Branch 165) and Lorna Ash (director of development, Northern Lights Health Foundation) show off a new custom-built, four-person adaptive e-bike. The e-bike, also known as “Big Blue”, has been used by AHS North Zone Public, Population and Indigenous Health and Seniors Health teams, in conjunction with community agencies since June. Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Foundation.
AHS Facilities Maintenance and Engineering staff in Fort McMurray show off how a new custom-built e-bike can accommodate up to four people. Photo supplied.
Story by Logan Clow | Photo courtesy of Northern Lights Health Foundation
FORT McMURRAY — Seniors here are enjoying the health and social benefits of a new custom-built, four-person adaptive e-bike.
The AHS North Zone Public, Population and Indigenous Health and Seniors Health teams, in conjunction with community agencies, have been using the specialty bicycle regularly since mid-June.
“It’s a unique bike that was designed to be inclusive of all seniors,” says Carolyn Evancio, an AHS Health promotion facilitator in Fort McMurray.
The three-wheel double-rider bicycle includes a detachable two-wheel double-rider trailer. A recreation therapist or adult volunteer pilots the bicycle while up to three passengers pedal. If a passenger is unable to pedal, the pedals can be blocked on one seat so they can still go for a ride to experience the social connection and fresh air outdoors.
The bicycle is equipped with a number of safety features to ensure riders with various abilities can enjoy the benefits of the activity. Features include a reinforced frame, adaptive pedals for users with limited leg function, extra-large comfort seats for stability and safety harnesses and armrests. Seats also swivel to accommodate clients who may require assistance to transfer onto the bike.
“The bike reduces social isolation, improves mental health and increases physical movement for seniors. It provides seniors with a fun and unique opportunity for social connectivity and aerobic activity. All of the seniors have really enjoyed using the bike,” says Evancio, who adds that cycling also benefits their cardiovascular and muscular fitness, bone health, functional health as well as cognitive function.
The bike is also used by AHS Willow Square Continuing Care Centre residents, and in collaboration with other community partners, such as Wood Buffalo Housing, Rotary House, Legion Manor, Araubasca House and St. Aidan’s Society. Evancio says she’s also used the bike with participants of the local AHS Talk On program, and plans to add a Bike On seniors program next year.
Funding for the bicycle arrived thanks to a $40,000 donation from the Royal Canadian Legion Fort McMurray Branch 165 to the Northern Lights Health Foundation — a donation made to honour the passing of local Second World War Bruce Laxton.
“We sincerely thank the Royal Canadian Legion Fort McMurray Branch 165 for their generous donation for the purchase of the bicycle, and their continued support of the Foundation and healthcare in the community,” says Cindy Amerongen, executive director, Northern Lights Health Foundation.
“In just a few short months, we have witnessed many seniors benefitting from the bike. It’s provided fun, social therapeutic opportunities, and it has enhanced the emotional and physical health, and social well-being of those who have used it.”
Evancio adds that many seniors have shared positive feedback about their experiences on the bike. Examples include:
“This bike has resulted in a sustainable change for seniors in our community,” says Evancio, “and increased physical and social activity outside, as well as improved mental health for years to come.”
The bike will continue to be regularly used until the snow and winter weather arrives.