Ask the Advocate
By Kristen Steele
I really want to get my grandparents out of their cars and onto their bikes. How can I get them interested in riding? Are there bicycles out there built specifically for the comfort of seniors?
– Hopeful Granddaughter
Many seniors love to reminisce about their two-wheeling days. I would first talk with your grandparents to help revive their interest in saddling up. Cycling gives seniors a relatively low-stress means of exercise that has been proven to increase health and longevity. It is also a great, inexpensive and social activity that can help them stay active and connected to their community in their retirement years.
Then, help them find a bike that’s right for them. Go to a bike retailer rather than a big box store. They will be more passionate about cycling and more knowledgeable about what’s on the market. Step-through frames make it easy to get on and off a bike. Recumbents may be the right choice for seniors with back issues. Tricycles may work for those who have trouble balancing or are afraid of falling. If hills are a major deterrent, they could try an electric bicycle that will give them a boost up hills and help them save energy for the flatter parts of the ride.
Once they find a bicycle that suits them, they’ll need a safe place to ride. Many people, seniors included, are nervous about riding in traffic. If your grandparents are in this camp, look for some car-free trails or off-road paths to start. You can also seek out local road riding classes that can help them hone their skills while boosting their confidence. The League of American Bicyclists hosts an online directory of these courses at bikeleague.org/programs/education/course_schedule.php.
Lastly, support your grandparents in their new mode of travel. Invite them to go on a ride with you. Buy them a membership to their local bicycle advocacy group. See if there are any senior bicycling clubs in your area they could ride with. If cycling becomes a social activity as well as a way to stay fit, they’re more likely to keep riding for years to come.
Cycling gives seniors a relatively low-stress means of exercise that has been proven to increase health and longevity.
Reached a bump in the road? Feel like you’re spinning your wheels and no one’s listening? The Advocate is here to help.