By Bob Uphues
Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care in North Riverside on May 9 officially will become the first Illinois chapter of Cycling Without Age, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based organization that aims to get senior citizens back on bicycles by offering them free rides on volunteer-powered "trishaws."
The trishaws are three-wheeled bicycles powered by a "pilot" who conveys up to two people in a compartment in front, allowing elderly passengers to feel the wind through their hair and offering leisurely views of the neighborhood and other areas.
"It not only gives them access to nature, it gives us an opportunity to keep them connected to the lives they led in the community," said Gus Noble, president of Chicago Scots, which has operated Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care, formerly known as The Scottish Home, in North Riverside since 1910.
According to Noble, Scotland last year made Cycling Without Age a national initiative, setting aside 300,000 pounds to roll out the program nationwide. It made sense, said Noble, for Chicago Scots, which is also the oldest nonprofit charity in the state of Illinois, to follow up with an initiative of their own.
Caledonia Senior Living and Memory Care will christen its two trishaws on May 9, at 9 a.m. when the two people responsible for providing funding the two vehicles – which cost about $10,000 apiece – will take them on their inaugural rides at the campus.
Residents, family members of the community are invited to participate in the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) event.
The honorary first pilots will be Bob Crawford, a longtime Chicago Scots benefactor and founder of Brook Furniture Rental, and Alex Gourlay, the Scottish-born COO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, who was given the Distinguished Citizen Award by Chicago Scots in 2018.
"This is a community here [at Caledonia Senior Living] and this is linking them to the community out there," said John Gremer, director of community affairs for Walgreens.
Jim Boyle, recently retired as administrator of Caledonia Senior Living, was chosen to spearhead the rollout of Cycling Without Age at the assisted living and skilled nursing care facility.
According to Boyle, there are about a dozen people who have volunteered to serve as pilots for the program. Caledonia hopes to work with local churches, cycle clubs and service organizations to increase the pool of pilots.
The trishaws can be driven into Riverside and North Riverside as well as the wooded area around Caledonia itself. Boyle said he is trying work with local businesses that can serve as destinations for the trishaws.
Noble said Caledonia has a trailer that can transport the two trishaws to other locations, so Caledonia residents can get further afield on the bikes, perhaps even to attractions like Brookfield Zoo and other area attractions.
"We don't want to be too prescriptive," Noble said. "The essence of our philosophy here is to be resident-directed."
While the service right now is limited to residents of Caledonia and their family, the hope is to expand ridership to the surrounding communities.
"The plan has always been to go into Riverside and North Riverside," Boyle said. "That also brings us into the community."