Since he was three years old, Mr Ole Kassow has seen how his father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to be wheelchair-bound, has struggled with unfulfilled desires to “go out and see other parts of society”.
The experience inspired the 49-year-old Danish social entrepreneur to launch Cycling Without Age, where volunteers take elderly people out and about on special trishaws. Two years after he started the project, more than 50 municipalities in Denmark and Norway now house more than 300 customised trishaws, some of which have elderly-friendly features such as a handicap lift, safety belts, and specially designed blankets.
The initiative, which has been rolled out in more than 10 countries, is now in Singapore, too. Last week, about 50 senior citizens from The Salvation Army’s family support services centre and Thian Leng Old Folks Home took rides on the first such trishaw in Singapore.
One of them, Mr Chan Peng Hing, 80, said he enjoyed the ride around Tiong Bahru Park. “I often get leg aches, so it is difficult to move around. With this project, I get to visit places I used to go to, and see a lot more new things.”
Ms Pernille Bussone, who lives in Singapore and approached Mr Kassow to pilot the concept in Singapore, said they have approached the Urban Redevelopment Authority, National Parks Board and Land Transport Authority for support of the initiative, which she hopes can bond the community across generations.
“Through these rides, people can build relationships and share stories. The pioneers will have a lot to share about the story of Singapore,” said Ms Bussone, 35. “The elderly have a wonderful wisdom, which we don’t cherish enough.”
She is aiming for one trishaw per Housing and Development Board block in Singapore. In the short term, she hopes to raise enough funds for at least two more trishaws — each costs 30,000 Danish krones (S$6,000) — and explore the possibility of assembling them in the region to reduce costs.
Several private organisations, such as Carlsberg and the Overseas Family School, have expressed interest either in volunteering or donating towards the project, she said. About 20 volunteers, aged between 15 and 55, have signed up so far, she added.
Mr Kassow said response among the elderly here has been positive. “Coming out on the road and feeling the wind can unleash a quality of life that has been lost in so many people when they grow old,” he added.