Imagine being able to cycle long distances through quiet, scenic country lanes in the comfort of your home. A recent internet BBC news article by Suzanne Bearne described an inspiring 99-year-old gentleman named Kenneth Judd who won a silver medal in a global cycling competition by peddling in place a record number of miles in his Warwickshire, England care home.
With the help of a high-tech exercise bike Mr. Judd rode 2,348 miles over 26 days, an average of more than 90 miles per 24 hours. Those are pretty impressive statistics, even for someone a lot younger than the intrepid Mr. Judd, a former World War II fighter pilot. It was his second try at winning a medal, having come in seventh in 2020, and he trained for nine months in preparation for the event.
The international competition is in its fifth year and is called “Road World for Seniors” sponsored by British Cycling, the sport’s governing body in the United Kingdom. It’s open to elderly participants and those with dementia who cycle on stationary bikes manufactured by a Norwegian firm called Motitech. The cycling machines are connected to a computer or laptop that is linked to a TV or monitor. When the riders cycle, they see scenery, roads, or streets near their childhood homes. It’s a unique experience providing both mental and physical exercise and can be accompanied by a musical playlist of the caregivers’ or cyclists’ choice.
For a number of years this technology has been used in gyms and in homes. Perhaps some of you are familiar with or have used it. But Motitech’s Motiview system is geared specifically at older people and those with dementia. A wellbeing coordinator at a London care home was quoted in the article as saying that the key factor behind Motiview’s growing popularity is that senior cyclists are encouraged to remember their childhoods. Cycling in place with videos and music evoking happy memories is good for the body, mind, and soul.
In less than thirty years, the world’s aging population (65 and up) will increase to 16 percent, up from the current 9 percent. And although many seniors are able to cycle outdoors with no complications, those who cannot could be greatly helped by such technical innovations. Computer-assisted cycling in a safe environment still requires effort, concentration, and stamina— factors that help defeat isolation and loneliness in the elderly as well as contribute to keeping fit.
I was drawn to this article because it demonstrates so clearly that our lives are what we expect them to be if we are not hemmed in by debilitating injury or disease. What separates Mr. Judd at 99 in completing this cycling challenge is his “expectation” of training and competing and doing it to the best of his ability. Such expectation is the crucial piece in the puzzle of life as we try to age as healthfully and gracefully as possible.