Elderplace & Volunteers of America Elderplace rides 2016 and 2015
Elderplace Earthday Bike Ride April 22, 2015
This Earthday Bike Ride fulfills the meaning of the 8 -80 cities rule and beyond. Except in our case we were fulfilling a bike ride safe enough for an 8 year old to a 96 year old. We simply wanted to celebrate Earthday by creating inclusion of our fragile elderly at Providence Elderplace, Portland, Oregon. Elderplace is a unique concept in medical elderly care. It was started in the 1960s by a dentist in the San Francisco Chinatown. The solution was a simple response to the question: what do I do with my elderly parents while I am at work? And the follow up response to the fact that they need services is 'why not import medical people? ' This is my relationship to Elderplace. I provide vision care for the very elderly at Portland Oregon’s Providence Elderplace at their 7 day care centers. We joined with Volunteers of America to pool our efforts for a simple Earthday Bicycle ride.
Our bike ride seems simple: get people to a park from a day care facility. Let’s celebrate Earthday. We started by getting permission to take people on the street, not in a medical van. You need to understand our patients our fragile: some people receive medication 4 times a day, some are aspiration risks such as a person with Parkinson’s who may swallow food ‘the wrong way’ and threaten to close off their airway; some require catheter bags for bodily fluids; some have no ability to support their trunk due to stroke or progressive nerve disease. On it goes as any book on geriatrics will detail the varieties of insults from age. And this is not to mention the umbrella of varied cognitive decline and deficits.
With support from the administrations we gathered doctors, physical therapists, and activity directors not only for support but also to help select people for the bike ride. We had the incredible positive support from all to bring some dozen patients from their each individual foster care home to one facility. We received great assistance from activity directors and therapists to choose people…initially we needed ‘adventuresome’ folks. Again, the context for this is important to understand, our medical system is for the protection and support for people with fragile conditions. We are in a risk adverse environment. One selected person died the week before the ride; another ready to ride his own bike broke his hip (not on a bicycle!); another daughter refused to grant permission for her mother to go
on dangerous streets!
At an elderly age we do not take good health for granted. But we realize there are real physical barriers & medical conditions that require contingency plans.
We gathered all the folks together on April 22, Earthday. We placed helmets on all; got them into pedi-cabs and our bakfiets like bicycles. We journeyed to a turn of the
19th century Peninsula Park. With its hundred year old fountain as a backdrop, we gave them sandwiches and cookies. And of course the one participant who had a history of refusing to follow the diabetic guidelines wanted her cookie before the sandwich! We knew those who needed soft foods easy to swallow. It was sunny Portland day with moving clouds and incredible smiles from all ~both staff and participants. No adverse medical events! And the medical van that trailed us was simply used for blankets, food, walkers, and wheel chairs.
A week later I was in a clinic, and out of the blue staff came up to me and thanked me for creating a ride for our patients. They said they had never seen such smiles on people. And for me privately I always smile when on my bike; I have crossed America, crossed England, been in Central America and a dozen cities including NYC bicycling my heart’s content…and this has always brought smiles to my inner self. But I realized my meter stick of rides is indeed equal to the glow of these people’s smiles from a simple one mile ride. And I must admit I wondered if the staff
who were not on the ride but saw these elderly having such a great time ~perhaps they were saying to themselves, if they can have a great time on a bike why not me? Having smiles as a contagion ~what a great way to spread the grace of bicycling to a park on Earthday.