My father turned 80 in January. He celebrated by going for a 30 mile ride with his buddies, which he does twice a week, all year long, except on very cold days. For 20 years, my father has been part of a bike group call The Pedal Pushers. Every Monday and Thursday they ride 12 miles to the Dublin Diner for breakfast. Depending on the weather, the return trip may include an added 15 miles on back country roads in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Every time I go home to visit, I borrow a bike and ride with this group of 6-8 men between the ages of 65 and 85. Last December I rode with them on a very cold, windy day and decided to engage them in conversation over breakfast. My father asked me to say a prayer before we ate. Then I asked a simple question, “Why do you do this?”
Their initial answer was accompanied by lots of laughter, “Breakfast!” The waitresses know them by name, menus are not needed, and the coffee flows freely.
The second reason they voiced was community. The fellowship is really most important, they said. These guys have a great time just being together. All I could think of was, “See how they love each other.” A primary topic of conversation seems to be all of their medical ailments, but they also delve into church, politics, family and community concerns. The Pedal Pushers are all men, but occasionally the wives meet them at the diner for breakfast. They have also biked together as couples in various places along the East Coast and even Europe.
A third reason they cited for biking was to stay in shape. One man said, “After a ride I am on a high for the rest of the day.” (It’s the endorphins.) Another said, “The exercise definitely helps keep us healthy. The older we get, the more our body breaks down. That’s why we need to do it.”
I’ve learned a lot from the Pedal Pushers about what it important to people as they grow older.
- I’ve learned how vital community is to our emotional, physical and spiritual health. These men really care about each other. When my mother was recovering from her broken hip, one couple brought over dinner. The wife of another biker volunteered to stay with my mother so my dad could go biking.
- I’ve observed that even though some men are able to ride faster than others, and the group doesn’t always stay together on the way, they make sure no one rides alone, and they wait for each other to arrive at the diner.
- I’ve noticed that they are always on the lookout for new people to join the group and are very welcoming.
- I’ve learned they because their vigorous exercise keep them healthier than the average 80 years old, they have more energy and ability to reach out to others through church and community organizations.
What is your congregation doing in the area of older adult ministries? And how can your church tap into the gifts that senior citizens can offer to others and to the world? Ever think about starting a bike group?