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Cycling with dementia

Two Keen Cyclists

Our keen cyclist blogger has helped his friend who has dementia to keep enjoying cycling safely. He shares his experience on our Blog.

When he was approaching 70, about five years ago, my friend of very many years began to show the first signs of dementia and now, unfortunately, he is well and truly incapacitated with advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

He now can’t form his words, has great difficulty in walking and can’t carry out simple tasks. His wife is his permanent carer and sees to his every need, an onerous responsibility that she uncomplainingly performs 24 hours a day.

However, to everybody’s amazement, including his medical advisers, he can still ride his bike reasonably well and once a week I take him for an hour long bicycle ride through pleasant parks and along a paved ex-railway track.  As long as I don’t stray more than a few yards in front of him, so that he can keep me constantly in view, he can follow me along traffic free paths without losing his balance or becoming distressed.

At a leisurely pace we cover between seven and eight miles and he loves it, he calls out an occasional cheery ‘good morning’ to passers-by, a brief flashback to his former gregarious self.  He is able to apply the brakes and slow down or stop when necessary, and can adequately steer his wide-tyred mountain bike.  One thing he can’t do is change gear so I ensure he is in his middle gear when we set off and he usually manages to keep it that way.

Maybe there are some readers who have friends or relatives in a similar situation? I know of course that dementia affects people in different ways and cycling might be beyond some but if they have been cyclists in the past and have given up because of their condition maybe, just maybe, they could get back on their bikes like my friend.  I’m convinced that he feels better after our rides, it’s an achievement, he can do it, it’s good exercise for him and a brief but welcome break for his wife. He always gives me a man hug afterwards, so it’s worth it to me too.

Cycling certainly is for everybody, well almost everybody.

5 Responses to Cycling with dementia

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    Dennis Boyle 9 July 2014 at 3:59 am #

    even better is to put your friend on the back of a tandem… which I do with a friend who is in the early stages of AD…. we go for 20 to 30 miles! He is very happy! dennis B Palo Alto CA

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    Kate Hymans 25 October 2014 at 9:36 am #

    A social enterprise company in York – Get Cycling – is currently running a pilot scheme with local care homes and carers to provide loan side-by-side tandems and other various types of bikes for use by people with Alzheimers. They hope to roll it out elsewhere in the UK. So far the response has been very positive with local people with dementia, some lifelong cyclists, some not, thoroughly enjoying the experience.

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    Dan 15 June 2015 at 5:18 am #

    My wife is in middle stages of Alzheimer’s. We have been riding a Tandem for about seven years now as she has progressed on her journey. We still ride over 3,000 miles a year, usually doing 40 or so miles twice a week. As long as her balance remains, we will continue. The Neurologist thinks its the best possible activity.

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    david dansky 20 June 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    We run a project in 2 London boroughs where we cycle with people with dementia http://www.cycletraining.co.uk/positive-spin.html

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      Angela Wightman 18 July 2017 at 8:49 pm #

      Do you know of any cycling groups in Halton Cheshire as my husband who is in the early stages of mixed dementia and he goes cycling most days on his own.
      I do not ride a bike and I would be happier if my husband would join a group of like-minded people.

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