Steinbach seniors take wheelchair-accessible bike for a whirl

Residents of a Steinbach nursing home are now able to get outside more thanks to the purchase of a novel cargo-style bike built to transport wheelchairs.

Rest Haven Nursing Home recently toasted the arrival of the bike, which was hand-built in Denmark and cost around $8,000, according to Dave Thiessen, the home's daily life co-ordinator.

The money was obtained through fundraising that started more than a year ago, he said.

Thiessen described the bike as almost like ones used to sell ice cream, except in place of the freezer chest on the front, there's a wheelchair-accessible ramp and platform.

He said the bike is great way for wheelchair-using residents to reclaim some lost independence.

"They're not able to drive vehicles, they're not able to drive bicycles, not able to do a lot of the things that they did in the past," said Thiessen.

"We really want to recognize people's dignity and worth … that somehow in their day, we're adding some value to their day … just showing them we value them."

The nursing home is very close to Steinbach's L.A. Barkman Park, which is a great place to ride, he said.

Being around nature has a revitalizing effect for people, he suggested. "We get to get out, get some fresh air in the sunlight … you hear different birds, the leaves in the trees — it's just a nice experience," Thiessen said.

Family members who want to take a relative out for a ride just need to become acclimatized to the bike's feel before whizzing off.  

"There's really no tipping factor," he said. "It's geared so nicely — the brakes are nice." 

The bike brings back fond memories for many residents ... though they may not have been so lucky to bike whenever they wanted. 

"In those days often families were big and those kind of toys were scarce," Thiessen said of his residents, born from the 1910s-30s. "If somebody had a new bike they would have been jealous."