Locked down residents at Belong have been going for gold by travelling the world on their bikes — all from the comfort of their care villages. With the help of their support workers, residents across Belong care villages have worked hard to cycle their personal bests in this year’s Road Worlds for Seniors, a global competition for older people and those with dementia.
Amongst the thousands competing, Belong residents have been exploring breath-taking landscapes through a linked screen, thanks to the event’s organiser, Motitech, whose mobile bikes make it possible to bring cycle equipment to residents in their households. Belong’s seven care villages throughout the North West and Midlands clocked up more than 2,500km (1,553 miles) — about the equivalent of cycling from John o’ Groats in Scotland to Lee Valley VeloPark in London’s Olympic Park, and back again.
Anthony Harley, lead fitness instructor for Belong, explains: “Exercise can really transform quality of life and is a fundamental part of life at Belong, so it was devastating for us when our village gyms had to close during lockdown. Since then, we’ve been exploring other ways to continue exercise provision and Road Worlds for Seniors is a perfect opportunity to get everyone excited about exercising, so we were really up for taking part.”
In addition to the health benefits cycling brings, the annual initiative aims to bring participants living in care facilities into a shared community across international borders.
This year, Belong’s participation has been widened to include all seven of its state-of-the-art care villages, having been trialled at its Crewe and Wigan sites in 2019, when Belong Wigan made the top 10 in the UK and the global top 50 for number of kilometres cycled.
Anthony Harley continues: “The benefits of regular exercise for older people are well documented, including increased muscle strength and flexibility, decreased stiffness and pain and lower blood pressure. Exercise enhances mood, improves sleep and provides stimulating activity, all of which have been shown to boost the wellbeing of older people, many of whom remain socially isolated from their loved ones. Road World for Seniors has proven to be a big hit with our residents as no matter their ability, they can all take part and many have enjoyed having a bit of friendly competition.”
Taking part in the competition comes off the back of a number of new initiatives introduced at Belong during lockdown, including the launch of ‘Belong Active’, a YouTube channel dedicated to easy-to-follow, at-home exercise tutorials for older people, as well as bespoke training programmes for its villages’ residents and for those living in the wider communities.