Free bike taxi brings seniors together in Ostend

Summary

Flanders’ largest coastal city is expanding its programme to shuttle older citizens from home to a senior centre and back via bicycle

Preventing isolation

Ostend’s free bike taxis for the elderly is looking for more volunteers as its first year comes to a close. The service, which shuttles those 65 and over from home to senior centres and back again, has proven successful and plans an expansion.

The goal was to ensure that older people living alone did not become too isolated. Senior centres offer endless opportunities for socialising and taking part in activities, and they even serve meals. But getting there can prove difficult for the elderly.

Ostend is home to more than 14,000 people over the age of 65 who live alone. “Many of these people have problems accessing transport,” Maxim Donck (N-VA), city councillor for both social affairs and cycle policy, told VRT. “We thought this project would be quite useful, and we were also able to get funding from the EU. We have a project co-ordinator who organises volunteers.”

Volunteers take people back and forth with the bike taxi, which seats two. “I pick them up and then take them back home,” said one of the volunteers, “and they really appreciate it. And to be honest, I enjoy doing it.”

Photo courtesy VRT