Special bike provides cutting-edge care

When it is 3 C and snowing sideways, you might expect a 91-year-old senior to stay indoors.  

Not Ken Bunn.

He is eager to head out for a ride on a new rehabilitation bicycle that arrived from Holland this July at Banff Mineral Springs Hospital.

Ken Bunn, 91, is a long-term care resident at Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. He is a regular at the hospital gym and enjoys a spin on the new bike whenever possible. Like many Banff residents, he has always enjoyed an active lifestyle.

A gift from local donors, the bike is built for group adventures. It has two sets of comfortable side-by-side seats, with seatbelts and power assist for steep hills. Disabled seniors like Ken can ride safely and pedal as much as they choose.

The bike is the hospital’s latest addition to an innovative exercise program for long-term care residents. 

“Some of our seniors can't walk, but they can ride,” explains Annie Tredray, the team’s passionate physiotherapist. “It is amazing and exhilarating for them. They love it.”

The social outings are a boost for mental and physical health, plus a workout for the legs to reduce their risk of a fall, she adds. “Fifty per cent of Albertans over age 80 will fall at least once per year, and the risks go up with age.” 

The bike is the first of its kind in Canada, and inspires a buzz of questions and excitement each time they take it out.

Annie’s inspiration? A disabled senior she caught lamenting the softly falling flakes outside her window. Once an active winter enthusiast, the resident said the snow reminded her of the joys of winter she had lost.

Ever since, Annie has been on a mission to help seniors have more fun outdoors despite their limitations. She also wants to reduce their risk of a fall through exercises that improve their strength and balance. Annie also hopes to raise national awareness and understanding that exercise is key to quality of life for seniors.

“I believe we should have higher expectations for seniors in care,” Annie explains. “We need to focus on ways we can keep them active and empower them to create goals about what they are still able to strive for.”

Dancercize: Betty Reinhardt, resident, and Laura Henry, Occupational Therapist, dance to help Betty with balance and leg strength. The 22-foot track and harness system gives Betty the freedom to go with the flow a bit and safely do things she normally wouldn’t.

Annie and her colleagues have also raised money for indoor bikes, called cycle ergometers. They've also added an overhead track and harness system so long-term care residents can practise walking and climbing stairs without fear of falling. The more adventurous try dancing, floor hockey and imitation ice climbing.

The response from residents to the new activities amazes Annie. These days, 10 of 24 residents regularly hit the gym, including Ken. “Some of them cycle three or four times a week,” says Annie. “I have been shocked at what even extremely disabled seniors are able to do.”

“The secret (to life) is you have to keep moving,” agrees Ken.

Additional Resource

Falls Prevention Guide

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