Between 2017-18, I coordinated the Rotherhithe & Bermondsey chapter of Cycling Without Age - a community project launched in Denmark in 2012. The project creates spontaneous, social encounters between volunteer cyclists and older people, often largely housebound or experiencing isolation.
According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
A big part of the project involved simply door-knocking at retirement homes and nursing homes across the Rotherhithe peninsula and around the edges of Southwark Park, getting to know people and exchanging stories. When you go out on a bike ride with someone, it's easy to get talking as the landscape unfolds and reveals differences and changes across time.
The project wouldn't have taken off so well without the support of retirement home staff and wardens who helped bring it to life in Rotherhithe & Bermondsey, and all the cyclists and riders involved. In the course of the year 2017-2018, we saw a four-fold increase in our number of volunteer cyclists and made connections with dozens of people interested in the rides as a regular activity.