Having dementia doesn’t mean you have to park up your push bike, at least that’s what a London-based project is keen to demonstrate…
A project called Positive Spin is aiming to get people with dementia cycling, and it’s already had some great results.
Taking place in parks, people with dementia and their carers can safely experience the joy of cycling, using a variety of cycles (including recumbent cycles and three-wheelers, which are less wobbly and ideal for those with less mobility).
People who turn up can do anything from getting Bikeability training (which teaches you how to ride more safely) and social rides, to simply observing others ride and chatting to people there.
The aim was to offer a fun and social activity to boost health and wellbeing and was launched as a pilot project last year. It’s now being rolled out to the London boroughs of Lambeth and Hackney.
Positive Spin have also brought bicycles into sheltered housing and care homes in a series of roadshows.
‘The roadshows help people understand that cycling is possible for people with a diagnosis of dementia of any age which often surprises potential referrals who may opt out due to a belief that they or their client would be unable to take part,’ says David Dansky of Cycle Training UK, who helped to deliver the project.
Some of the benefits that have been noted since the project started including providing a sense of control for themselves, an improvement in cognition and the general sociability of it.
‘The social benefits are exceptional,’ says Dansky. ‘Most participants come with their spouses and/or a family member, but engage and make relationships with the instructors and other participants.’
And thanks to promotion from the Alzheimer’s Society and other cycling bodies such as Pedal Power and Wheels for Wellbeing, Positive Spin has gained interest from many other areas of London and around the country.
‘Cycling is a learnt and practised activity using procedural memory often unimpaired in people with dementia,’ says Clare Morris, the dementia specialist at Cycle Training UK. ‘The benefits for people dementia have been greater than expected.’
One participant called Elaine, said, ‘What a brilliant sense of freedom it was to ride around in the sunshine. I never dreamed that I would be riding around once more at nearly 70 years old! I feel on top of the world!’