People

Aug 31, 2017

Seniors take on 400km ride to show that age is just a number

Photo source:Facebook / RSVP.SG

Long-distance cycling feats across countries are not unheard of. Cyclists embark on such journeys for charity, self-discovery, love, exploration and other reasons.

Long-distance cycling across countries by a group of seniors? That’s a different story.

Organised by RSVP Singapore, Cycle with a Purpose sees volunteers from the silver generation embarking on a round trip from Singapore to Batu Pahat, Malaysia.

Officially launched on Oct 31, 1998, RSVP Singapore is a non-profit organisation that engages seniors – between 40 and 80 years of age – in purpose-driven volunteerism. Today, RSVP Singapore has 9 ongoing programmes and more than 1,000 members serving over 150,000 beneficiaries each year. These include the mentally disadvantaged, at-risk children from low income families, and socially isolated seniors.

Senior volunteers assembled for an event.

RSVP volunteers at an eventPhoto source:RSVP Singapore

Speaking to Move Happy, board member of RSVP Singapore, Cyril Ong, 70, said: “Seniors are our social capital – they have a lot of experience and talents that we can tap on. By 2030, the number of seniors above 65 in Singapore will increase approximately threefold to almost one million. Thus, it is important that we actively reach out to our seniors and empower and engage them so that they lead active, purposeful lives.”

To further promote senior volunteerism, RSVP launched the National Silver Volunteer Month on Sept 4, 2015. In its third edition this year, they’re stepping up their efforts with Cycle with a Purpose that serves to motivate seniors to push their limits and go beyond their comfort zone, says Ong.

Rider poses with his cycle that bears the Singapore and Malaysia flag.

Cyril Ong, board member of RSVP SingaporePhoto source:Cyril Ong

Indeed, with 400km to cover over six days (Sept 5 to 9), it can be physically daunting and safety is a major concern that comes to mind as well. However, Ong explained that the participants – ranging in age from 52 to 65 – have done the necessary training and planning.

“We do our daily fitness exercises, we cycle every week (around Singapore) for 40 to 60km, we went on a recce and got the best route with hotel accommodations,” he said.

A line of cyclists on a 400km journey.

Participants training for the ride

While he acknowledged that there are still foreseeable challenges as the path can get very narrow and some of the roads are winding and hilly, Ong has prepared for this with two vehicles that will carry the essentials needed for this journey and at the same time, provide tired cyclists with a place to rest.

As someone who adopts the active mobility lifestyle, Ong sees this event as a way to reach out to more seniors to come forward and take up cycling as an exercise. He said: “The cyclists have been practising for the past few months and are now ready for this opportunity to show the community that ageing is not a problem but just a number.”

He added: “Remember, this journey to Batu Pahat is not a race of any sort. It is for seniors to enjoy the experience, to sightsee and eat local food. It is a way for seniors to take on a different routine with excitement.”

Seniors break to pose for a photo during their long distance cycling journey.

Cyril and two of the RSVP members

However, if you are new to the lifestyle, which most seniors probably are, Ong advises against doing too much too soon.

He said: “Do lots of training on cycling paths or PCNs (park connector networks) and always be alert. Learn all the basic safety rules, do not take any chances and do not rush.”

A senior cyclist waves a stop on the cycling path.

Cycling Path

A Park Connector Network path in Singapore.

Park Connector Network (PCN)

And as an avid cyclist, what safety tip can he offer to budding cyclists?

“Be mindful of others. Stop when you are tired, rest and drink lots of isotonic drinks and eat bananas.”

The National Silver Volunteer Month kicks off on Sept 9 and there will be a full day event at ITE College Central. Participants of Cycle with a Purpose are scheduled to complete their route at the event. You can meet with the cycling group and travel with them on the last leg of their journey. More details can be found here.

Also Read: The day I took the elderly for a joyride