Wheelchair-bound residents rediscover love of bicycle riding

Positively KELOLAND

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When you move into a nursing home, you may think that your days of riding a bicycle are over. But some residents in Brookings are living proof that with the help of technology, you’re never too old to ride a bike.

Darlene Carpenter remembers teaching herself to ride a bike in the alley by her house when she was seven.

“It was awesome, you go really fast and then just glide along. You could go all over the place, cover a lot more ground than when you’re walking. You could go to the park, it was a lot of fun,” said nursing home resident Darlene Carpenter.

Now confined to a wheelchair, Carpenter figured those days where long gone.

“I never thought I’d get to ride again. I was very happy when they got these,” said Carpenter.

“It’s a beautiful fall day,” said Activities Assistant Jessie Kuechenmeister.

Jessie Kuechenmeister saw her first wheelchair bicycle on Facebook and did some research. The bikes have electronic assist to make pedaling easier and cost $11,000 each.

“It’s phenomenal. Like Darlene said, I never thought I’d be able to ride bike again, but here we are doing everything you could do on a bike and we’re enjoying it together. It’s neat to go by Caroline’s home. this is where I grew up, this is where I raised my kids,” said Kuechenmeister.

“Who get to rake up all these leaves I wonder?” said nursing home resident Caroline Potas.

Caroline Potas jumps at the chance to ride.

“Sitting here in a chair riding down the street, there’s nothing like it, it’s so unique. You’re perfectly safe, you’re buckled in, you got a helmet on. It’s just a wonderful ride.”

The people who ride these bikes say they enjoy it just as much as the residents.

“Freedom, they feel freedom just being able to get out, not having to worry about life. It’s just fresh air, they love it,” said Sara Gortmaker with Brookings Health.

“It exceeded my expectations. I knew it would be fun but I had no idea just how much joy it would bring to the staff and residents,” said Kuechenmeister.

“Back home. Home again.”

“It is just the most enjoyable. wonderful ride that you ever had. I love doing it,” said Potas.

“I could ride forever,” said Carpenter.

Just like when she was seven.

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