A groundbreaking piece of Norwegian technology is allowing those living with dementia to experience bike rides again, and to revisit scenes of their childhoods. But this is no summer outing – instead, by using an exercise bike hooked up to a screen with video and sound, users can take cycle trips through familiar surroundings, helping to jog childhood memories, increase awareness and social interaction and, of course, remain active.

The device was originally developed in 2013 by Motitech, and has gradually been rolled out to care homes, senior community centres, home care services, adult day care centres and even private homes across the Nordic countries, America and now the UK. The benefits of the system are myriad. Aside from the obvious cognitive benefits of revisiting familiar places or exploring new ones, the physical side of the activity helps to increase mobility and even helps with weight loss. One care home in Norway reported huge successes with an overweight and low-mood resident, who was an Alzheimer’s patient. She  lost 11 kilos just through using the Motiview cycling machine regularly. Her mood also greatly improved, and she was eventually able to walk again without her mobility aids.

Similarly, at the Sunrise Care Home in Winchester, staff have noticed a great improvement in the mood and physical capabilities of their residents. Care worker Zoe Prince said, ‘For people with dementia, the bikes have been amazing. As they sit and pedal, they can visit lots of different countries– where they were born, or somewhere they might have gone to as a child. As a result, they engage in a conversation, from which they start to reminisce. It’s amazing to be able to share that with them.’ She noted that Anne, a resident in the early stages of dementia, has been liberated by her experiences on the Motiview.

‘When I met Anne, she was a very, very scared lady,’ said Zoe. ‘Leaving her home to come into this completely new environment was difficult for her. She was very reserved, not great at making friends, very quiet. But as soon as she got on the bike, it was like seeing a different person.

‘She was chatty, she was pointing things out: “I remember living there” and “I remember going on holiday there”. There was just this instant beam on her face. Anne has used the bike on a daily basis and the difference I’ve seen in her is just amazing. She is more confident, she will come down here, talk to the residents; share her reminiscing with them. She would never have done that before.”

Videos are constantly being added to the library so users can explore more and more places on their daily rides. A project by Motitech funded by Sport Englands Active Ageing Fund is now taking place in 24 care homes across the UK, where residents will be trying out the technology for three months at each location. During the project staff will be measuring changes in physical and mental wellbeing, as well as the level of physical activity in general. The hope is that eventually this sort of technology will be commonplace in residential and care homes for older people and those with dementia.

Motitech also holds an annual ‘Road Worlds for Seniors’ competition – essentially a global stationary cycling competition for older people around the world, competing to see who can cycle the furthest. In 2018, 2,500 people took part; the organisers expect this to be bettered in this year’s contest, which takes place from 2-27 September. Find out more, and how to enter, here.