Cycling to Paris on a bicycle in the senior center

Thanks to a donation, the seniors at Caritas Altenzentrum St. Elisabeth can embark on 700 different virtual bike tours.

The residents of Caritas Altenzentrum St. Elisabeth in Germersheim enjoy taking virtual bike tours around the world. This is made possible by Bike Labyrinth, which was acquired thanks to a generous donation from the Dora-Detzel Foundation.

Franziska Wink, Kim Smetan, Regina Ungeheuer, Kirstin Fischer

Franziska Wink is cycling through Munich, passing by Marienplatz. "Isn't there a way to the Viktualienmarkt from here?" asks Kirstin Fischer, Head of Social Services, and the senior adjusts her course accordingly. The two engage in a conversation about the famous market, the Bavarian capital, and Oktoberfest because Franziska Wink hails from Lower Bavaria and has been to Munich several times. The bike tour brings back memories of her old homeland.

The senior isn't actually cycling through Bavaria but is sitting in her wheelchair on the first floor of Caritas Altenzentrum St. Elisabeth. Her feet are resting on the pedals of the MOTOmed motion trainer, a type of bicycle ergometer. "I'm not pedaling myself, I'm being pedaled," the senior reveals with a laugh. The MOTOmed has been available in the senior center for a while. Residents can sit in a wheelchair or a chair in front of it, actively pedal or let their legs move passively, each according to their ability. The device can also be switched to manual mode.

The recent popularity of the MOTOmed is due to the associated television screen that now stands in front of it. It's not just an ordinary screen but a Bike Labyrinth that allows residents to virtually cycle through the entire world, from Paris to New York. Nearly 700 interactive bike tours can be selected. Video clips are included, recorded by a cyclist with a camera during an actual bike tour through each city. When the seniors embark on their virtual tour, they see the city on the screen from the perspective of a cyclist and hear the sounds of a city and bicycle bells. At intersections, they can decide whether to turn left or right by pressing a yellow or blue button. When they stop pedaling, the film also stops.

Franziska Wink chooses an exciting bike tour

Bike Labyrinth is a donation from the Dora-Detzel Foundation, which was established in 2008 and has been fulfilling the wishes of the residents at Caritas Altenzentrum St. Elisabeth for years. The foundation traces its origins back to Hans Puderer, a resident of Lingenfeld who passed away in 2007. He left a substantial fortune and expressed his desire for the establishment of a foundation to support seniors. "Actually, he would have liked that a nursing home be built with it, but that wasn't feasible," explains Regina Ungeheuer, who, along with Dean Jörg Rubeck and Jan Gehrlein, forms the foundation's board. Instead, the money distributed by the foundation now supports Caritas Altenzentrum St. Elisabeth. It was important to Puderer that the purchases benefit everyone. In recent years, the senior center has received a minibus, acquired seating groups, landscaped the garden, and now purchased Bike Labyrinth for approximately 6,000 euros. "We couldn't have afforded it otherwise," says facility manager Kim Smetan, who is very grateful for the support.

Therapists who visit the residents would also like to use Bike Labyrinth for their work. When needed, the device can be easily rolled into a resident's room for exercise sessions. Thanks to Bike Labyrinth, staff members in social care take the residents on a journey around the world, offering a little vacation.

Franziska Wink, Kim Smetan, Regina Ungeheuer, and Kirstin Fischer are checking out where they can go with the special bicycle

Franziska Wink is now traveling through Corsica. "This is probably not for me, with these steep roads and curves," she notes, and Kirstin Fischer continues searching. "Austria would be nice," the senior suggests. That's also available, as well as excursions to national parks in the USA or dream tours through the Dolomites. But Bike Labyrinth can do even more. "You can not only go on bike tours, but there are also various quizzes," Kirstin Fischer explains. Soon, everyone is participating in the country guessing game: Franziska Wink, Kirstin Fischer, Kim Smetan, and Regina Ungeheuer because it's not as easy as it seems. Is the sandy beach shown on the screen in Italy or Brazil? Meanwhile, Franziska Wink continues pedaling. Now she's allowed to burst yellow and blue balloons using the buttons on the handlebars. She's been on the journey for nearly an hour. "This is a good thing, truly interesting," she says.

Text and Photos: Dr. Christine Kraus for the Caritas Association for the Diocese of Speyer