"Positive Spin", a project to get people with dementia on bikes, has had positive results, says David Dansky of Cycle Training UK, who helped deliver the project.
The aims of the project were to offer a fun social activity to enhance health and wellbeing for people with dementia, to enable some to take up cycling, and to identify the benefits of cycling for people living with cognitive impairment and their families. Launched as a pilot last year the project is rolling out to the London boroughs of Lambeth and Hackney.
The project takes places in parks, where people with dementia and their carers can experience riding using a variety of cycles. Participant engagement can range from Bikeability training and social rides, to observing and talking to others.
The project also brought cycles to 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," said Dansky.
The project outcomes have included:
Social benefits: "The social benefits are exceptional. Most participants come with their spouses and/or a family member, but engage and make relationships with the instructors and other participants," said Dansky.
Progression through National Standard outcomes: "The clear structure and small steps is a very useful framework to assess risk, and facilitate learning in all participants. For those with a diagnosis of dementia there has been an important role in validating existing skills and developing confidence."
Locus of Control: "For those people with a diagnosis of dementia a sense of freedom to move around independently and under their own control was achieved," said Dansky. "Osteoporosis, chronic pain, reduced mobility when walking, stroke, wheel chair dependence, have not been a barrier to engaging in cycling. Quite the contrary, pain free mobility has been facilitated."
Cognition: "There is some evidence for improved cognition. Language and communication flow, and all participants remember and look forward to the sessions."
The project was promoted by the Alzheimer’s Society and supported by Pedal Power and Wheels for Wellbeing. There has been considerable interest in Positive Spin from other London Boroughs and Cycle Training UK is looking to create a sustainable national network.
Clare Morris, Cycle Training UK's dementia specialist said: ""Cycling is a learnt and practised activity using procedural memory often unimpaired in people with dementia.The benefits for people with dementia have been greater than expected."
She added: "Riding with other family members leads to an activity all can take part in on equal footing, and with the support of a team of skilled instructors the people and their families can forget their troubles for the duration of the session and beyond it."
Project participant 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!"
Next week is Dementia Awareness Week.