Several months into a new program to help residents experience the great outdoors, Christian Health Care Center is experiencing resounding success.
“I believe physically and mentally it’s very important to get out of my room and enjoy the opportunities,” one CHCC resident said. “I can’t wait to tell my daughter.”
The long-term care center rolled out a program in April to give those who live there the opportunity to ride on electric-assist trishaws — three-wheeled bicycles that can accept passengers — through the parks and along the paths near the Lynden long-term care center.
One of the new trishaws can accommodate wheelchairs, and the other seats two passengers to enable staff to ride along.
“We have had such a positive response from the community, staff, families and residents about this program,” said Kaitlin Gobeille, CHCC’s director of therapeutic recreation. “Every time we take the bikes out, people we ride by say ‘that looks fun!’ or ‘how cool is that!’”
CHCC’s guided cycling program was made possible by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Money from the grant was used to buy two trishaws from Cycling Without Age, an international organization based in Copenhagen that provides experiences like this throughout the world.
Among the reasons CHCC was chosen for the grant is its proximity to Bender Family Recreational Park – Lynden’s 56-acre open-space park with trails, sporting fields, picnic areas and playground. The park is a place for multigenerational gatherings nearly year-round, and the flat, paved trail that winds through the area is scenic and well suited for trishaw bike outings.
Another resident said after a recent ride that she “felt like a king.”
Many of the people who now call CHCC home were raised in Lynden and throughout rural Whatcom County. Over a lifetime, they have enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities, including walking, cycling, gardening, watching youth sports in local parks, creek fishing and more.
Expanding the center’s recreation program to include guided cycling adventures has brought many moments of joy to the lives of residents.
Moving through familiar parks and trails – seeing children playing, hearing water in the creek, experiencing nature – has brought back many fond memories for those who grew up around Lynden.
“The residents love reminiscing about when they were kids, and they love riding through the new Bender park,” Gobeille said.
Not only has the trishaw program brought joy to long-term care residents, it also has helped change the perception of aging in the community. With an active cycling program, CHCC hopes to show that many life-enriching activities can take place in the final stages of life — that a lot of living happens at Christian Health Care Center.
Through indoor recreation programs such as the Eldergrow gardening program, therapeutic recreation staff and volunteers help people receiving care at CHCC connect to the world around them through planting flowers, watering and pruning.
The PARO robot program gives residents lifelike comfort animals to interact with, and a driving simulator helps residents remember the thrill of using a tractor to till farmland.
Passengers on the trishaw bikes hold a small bell, and when they pass someone on the street, they can ring the bell and wave. The response, in return, is always a smile and wave, Gobeille said.
In time, as COVID-19 cases drop in Whatcom County and the pandemic wanes, lessened restrictions will allow family members and volunteers to bring their own bikes and ride alongside the trishaws.
For more information about the trishaw program or other recreational activities at CHCC, visit chcclynden.org.
In accordance with HIPAA privacy practices, CHCC is not able to share the last names of the residents.