If she’s not seeing it for herself first hand, Lauren Lypchuk gets the good news from her stable of volunteers.
Lypchuk is co-founder (with husband Ward Strong) of Cycling Without Age, a free program that gives Vernon senior citizens bike rides in specially made cycles called Tri-Shaws, where the passenger(s) sits in front, guided by a volunteer “pilot” at the back, who pedals the three-wheeled bike.
The program began in 2019, was halted by COVID for two years, and resumed in 2022. The 2023 program features two bikes, 45 volunteers of which 14 are new and it had its earliest start ever to a season, May 16, thanks to the incredible Okanagan weather.
“We’ve taken more than 800 seniors for rides, and our two bikes have gone more than 6,200 kilometres,” said Lypchuk, who recently gave a ride to a senior weeping tears of joy as they went down part of the Okanagan Rail Trail.
“I asked if she was OK, and she said, ‘this is the first time I’ve been out in three years. I’ve seen the rail trail in pictures, donated to it, read about it. I never expected to go on it.’”
The Okanagan Rail Trail is part of the most popular route for Cycling Without Age, one that starts in Polson Park, goes down the boardwalk to the new Coldstream Station and onto the rail trail. Lypchuk and her volunteer pilots also take passengers downtown, and out to Okanagan Landing and Kin Beach and Marshall Field.
“I’m still working with 11 seniors residences,” said Lypchuk, adding there is room for individuals not in seniors homes to sign up for a ride. A volunteer is at the main entrance of the Schubert Centre every Tuesday and Thursday from 12-1 p.m. signing up people.
The community continues to support the program. Cycling Without Age has received donations from such groups as Kal Rotary, 100 Plus Women Who Care and the Vernon Volunteer Book Society.
“I’m glad we’re able to continue it,” said Lypchuk of the program which also captures the hearts of her volunteers. She ran into a new volunteer recently, and the recruit regaled Lypchuk with a tremendous tale.
“The volunteer came back from a ride and said it was exactly like our introduction to the program,” smiled Lypchuk. “It was better than they could have imagined. There were people clapping and waving as they went by on the cycle.”