On our ferry back to Denmark we found out that Finn and Marie’s apparent romance had made its way into a local newspaper’s coverage of the trip. I gave Marie a copy of the newspaper and asked her about the romance they had reported. She denied any romance, claiming Finn, at 81 year old, is way too young for her!
The trip to Norway left me with a completely different perspective on elderly people. But, the effect on others on the trip was even greater.
I caught up with Finn and Marie six months later. Finn said he had been given a new lease of life and had so much more energy than he did before. Marie had previously said the Norway trip would be her last, since she is nearly 100 years old. She is now planning her next trip.
They are not the only ones to benefit. On my return to Denmark, I met Jens, a pilot in his seventies. He was on the Norway trip and back home he cycles people from his local care home in a rickshaw. His wife his sick and needs constant care. He said that cycling elderly people gives him purpose. It gives him the energy to keep caring for his wife, even when things get tough.
One of the care home residents that Jens cycles is Palle, who is only in his sixties. He has been bed-bound for seven years and confined to a wheelchair. He was reluctantly convinced to go on the Norway trip. Six months later, he is walking and even taking part in exercise classes at the care home!
For me personally, making the film meant that I got to know some incredible characters, old and young. It certainly made me think differently about how we treat the elder members of our society. More importantly, it made me think about how we age and what we can do to live the best lives as we get older.
There is a great deal of emphasis on exercise as part of healthy ageing. But there is more to healthy ageing than just exercise. Though some elderly people I met are the pilots who cycle people around, most of the elderly people are passengers who get ridden around in the rickshaws. For them, the benefits are the varied scenery they see, the conversations they have with other passengers and the pilots, and battling the unpredictable Danish weather.
Notably, most of the passengers will insist on being taken out in bad weather. From a mental health perspective, that’s actually very important. In a care home, one can sit for hours with the heat on, watching the drizzling rain outside. But isn’t being wrapped up warm and cozy inside so much more satisfying when you’ve just been outside with your friends, with cold rain hitting your face, and the wind in your hair?