One of the problems facing people living with dementia is the increasing sense of isolation that affects so many. As the disease begins to take hold, many people lose the confidence to go out and about on their own, fearing that they may lose their way on unfamiliar streets or be unable to get home. As a result their social lives are rapidly curtailed, and often interactions shrink to a select few friends and family.
One project in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk has set out to provide a helping hand to anyone local who is experiencing such isolation and loneliness, with a quirky, pedal-powered initiative. Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw offers free, chatty rides to people who are unable to get around on their own, using a specially adapted tricycle that carries two passengers at the front. The rides give isolated and older people an opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of Bury, to take in a little fresh air and to enjoy some interaction with others – both the driver of the rickshaw and passers-by.
Passengers are picked up from their home or day centre and taken for a slow and chatty tour of the town. Amazingly the rides are free thanks to the volunteers who give up their time, along with sponsorship of the initiative by (amongst others) Bury St Edmunds town council and Revel outdoors.
David, 78, a Bury resident living with dementia, is a regular user of the service. ‘It makes life worth living,’ he said. Users can ride with a friend or carer, meaning that even the most cautious of clients can enjoy a day out. The service offers a standard tour round the town that includes the Arc and Abbey Gardens, but if you have a specific journey or places that you would like to visit, the rickshaw drivers are more than happy to accommodate. And don’t worry about their legs – the rickshaws are specially adapted with a motorised element to help with the hills!
If you are interested in booking the service for a friend or loved one, or if you would like to volunteer, you can contact the project on 01284 339449, or find out more about the service on www.bserickshaw.org.uk.