Nursing Home Pedicab Program a Wheely Great Success

Residents of the Dalbær nursing home in the North Iceland village of Dalvík are on the move these days, thanks to the ‘Cycling at Any Age’ program that provides pedicab services and outings for residents. RÚV reports that Dalbær is among the nursing homes currently participating in the program, which is sponsored by the organization Hjólfærni, or ‘Cyclecraft,’ a local offshoot of the movement of the same name started by John Franklin in the UK.

Arnar Símonarson is one of the Bike Buddies who regularly provides pedicab services for elderly residents. “I come up here to Dalbær now and then, when I have the time and opportunity, when I’m at loose ends, and I ride this hot rod here, which has been dubbed the Cool Cab.”

Arnar says that the number of rides provided each time varies, as do the destinations. “People want to go to the bank and the store, we go to Olís [a petrol station] and get ice cream, sometimes we go to the coffee house and the residents have a beer or something else. And then sometimes, we go up to the cemetery.”

Arnar believes that a pedicab such as the one he pilots in Dalvík should be at every nursing home in the country. “It’s wonderful to go out with the residents and see them smiling and getting a little color in their cheeks.” He says that he’s seen a real change amongst the residents since the pedicab became a regular feature of their day-to-day lives. “We can see the happiness and vitality and people return a bit refreshed,” says Arnar.

The Dalbær residents agree. Kristján Loftur Jónsson is one of Arnar’s regular passengers and says that he enjoys getting out for some fresh air and that his favorite places to go are the coffee house or the corner store where he gets an ice cream when the weather’s nice.

Arnar concluded by saying that there’s no reason to fear getting old if you can remain engaged the world. “Growing old doesn’t mean having to disappear from life. Life is out there,” he remarked. “We just have to go out and grab it.”

North Iceland Seniors Cycle in International Competition

senior home

Residents at nursing home Hlíð in Akureyri, North Iceland having been breaking a sweat recently in an international cycling competition called Road Worlds for Seniors. This is the third year that Hlíð takes part in the competition and its residents are currently in second place of 120 homes that are participating.

Physiotherapist Ásta Þorsteinsdóttir manages the project, which she says is very popular among Hlíð residents. “First thing in the morning there’s a queue outside here when we arrive and this is on from eight until four o’clock, just constantly,” she told RÚV reporters. “As it stands, we are in second place of 120 teams with 1,700km (435mi) cycled. Last year we were in fifth place so we are doing a bit better this year.”

Residents take part in the competition on stationary spinning bikes in the home, while a screen provides them with video and audio of point-of-view bike trips through cities around the world.

Jónína Axelsdóttir is one of the residents participating in the competition daily. “It’s just so fun, amazing to participate in this.” Jónína hopes Hlíð takes home the trophy this year, but adds “it would be OK to get second place.”

Icelandic Woman Recovers from COVID-19 in Time for 103rd Birthday

Helga Guðmundsdóttir 102 ára

Helga Guðmundsdóttir, aged 102, has fully recovered from COVID-19 just in time for her 103rd birthday on May 17, RÚV reports. Helga, who was born in 1917, has lived through two world wars and the Spanish flu epidemic, and even beat tuberculosis twice.

“I’ve gotten it all haven’t I?” Helga remarked when reporters came to visit her earlier this week following her release from quarantine. The centenarian lives at the nursing home Berg in the Westfjords town of Bolungarvík (pop. 931), where she is the oldest resident. She was one of several of the home’s residents that developed COVID-19.

Helga’s granddaughter Agnes Veronika Hauksdóttir has been working as a reserve staff member at the nursing home and says it’s a relief to be able to attend to her grandmother again without being fully covered in personal protective equipment. “It’s totally priceless,” Agnes stated.

Agnes says that Helga’s positive attitude has been a key to her longevity. “I am absolutely sure that it’s the positivity that has gotten her this far. We don’t have any memory of her being angry or griping about anything. So she is an incredibly great role model.”

Agnes looks forward to celebrating her grandmother’s birthday in ten days. “If there was ever an occasion, I think this is it.”

Nursing Homes to Allow Visitors Again in May

Grund Elderly Care Centre.

Starting on May 4, relatives will be able to visit nursing home residents in Iceland, RÚV reports. Strict conditions will apply to all such visits, such as that only one person can visit at a time. Authorities will announce the conditions in full next week.

A working group comprised of representatives from the Welfare Services Association, the Department of Civil Protection, the Directorate of Health, and the Ministry of Health came up with terms dictating the safe reinstatement of family visits.

“[…] This will be a big relief,” said Pétur Magnússon, director of the Welfare Services Association. “As of May 4, the visitation ban will have been in effect for almost 60 days.”

May 4 is the day on which the Icelandic government will begin relaxing COVID-19 restrictions in Iceland in general. Icelandic preschools and elementary schools will return to regular operation; salons, massage parlours, and museums will reopen; and gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed. Swimming pools, gyms, bars, and slot machines will remain closed for the time being.

Organised Beer Tasting for Elderly Neighbours

Grund Elderly Care Centre.

A pilot project which provided housing for university students in elderly care centres in Reykjavík will continue this fall, Vísir reports. In exchange for the living space, students organised social events and provided company for their elderly neighbours. Two students participated in the pilot last year, and a new report on the project states the experience was a positive one.

The City of Reykjavík Welfare Committee confirmed the continuation and expansion of the pilot in a meeting in August. University students will receive housing in five elderly care centres and provide companionship and social activities at the locations. One student will reside at each of the five centres this fall, and two additional students will be added annually over the next two years.
Andrea Ósk Sigurbjörnsdóttir, enrolled in recreation studies, was one of the two students who participated in the pilot. While she says the project entailed many challenges, her experience was overall a positive one.

“It was a very fun experience. The project was sometimes taxing, but it’s definitely something that I absolutely don’t regret doing,” Andrea stated. “I went for walks with some of the residents and then chatted with others throughout the day. Then I tried to stimulate social life at the location by organising bingo, poetry evenings, and beer tasting, among other activities. That created a great atmosphere.”

Andrea says the project succeeded in bridging the gap between generations. Hey eyes were opened to all kinds of challenges faced by senior citizens, and at the same time she has undoubtedly opened the eyes of her former neighbours and widened their perspective. “I got a girlfriend during [the time I lived there] and she sometimes stayed with me and vice versa. Many residents thought she was my sister and some whispering was heard in the corridors. But I was just open about it and then it was no big deal.”

One aspect of the project Andrea thinks could be improved would be increasing the collaboration between students who take part. “I didn’t have any contact with the other participant and that would have certainly helped both of us.”