Time & Talents, founded in 1887, is a local charity based in Rotherhithe and Bermondsey, dedicated to creating a place where everyone feels a part of the community. The organisation brings people together for mutual support, fun and friendship through a range of services and activities that address: social isolation, improving mental & physical wellbeing, and reducing divisions across the community.
In 2016-17, supported by United St. Saviours’ Charity, Time & Talents ran a pilot scheme called ‘Cycling Without Age’; an international movement with the aim of helping elderly people with limited mobility to get back on their bicycle.
Initially the local charity recruited and coordinated a group of volunteer cyclists. Then they helped local, elderly beneficiaries living in sheltered housing and nursing homes to sign up to the scheme. Through the success of the pilot project, Time & Talents sought after funding from Cycling Grants London, which is a scheme set up by Transport for London (TfL). This funding has been used to grow and enhance Cycling Without Age.
With three year funding for £10,000, the project now currently offers weekly two-hour trishaw rides (a heavy-duty, speed-limited and power-assisted bike for two passengers) delivered by their pool of 40 trained volunteers. They target around eight to nine varying local locations and 220 older people; therefore helping elderly residents to get out of their homes and onto bikes, enjoying fresh air and community spirit.
Many of the project’s participants face mobility limitations linked with old age, as well as possible visual impairments, or physical and mental illnesses. This can create substantial barriers for cycling, or even to experience cycling as a passenger.
Cycling Without Age provides these local residents with the opportunity to experience bicycle rides, as well as a means to travel to locations otherwise out of reach. The project also exposes older people to the joys of cycling, offering an experience and social engagement that may otherwise be unavailable, in particular for older people experiencing loneliness and isolation. For volunteers, the project offers an increased opportunity for new, lapsed, or occasional cyclists to build confidence with cycling, and increase the frequency in which they cycle.
Grace, a participant of the project said: “I’ve never seen anything like this. Everyone waved at us like I’m the queen, so I just waved back gracefully like she would have done”.
On asked what advice they would give to other projects, Time & Talents said that personal connection is really important: “trying to meet first-hand with beneficiaries is very important. The volunteers must be personable too; you should build relationships and just get to know people and then you’ll get lasting connections. Also try to be streamlined in managing lots of diaries as this is a constant process when working with volunteers! Be very ordered with spreadsheets, and encourage volunteers to share their availability with you”.
Another participant said: “I’ve done some extraordinary things in my life, but never something like this.”