Ex-soldier melts hearts by giving rickshaw rides to pensioners

2018-12-20 01:34


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An ex-soldier has been helping care-home residents feel the wind in their hair again, by offering rides on a rickshaw.

He claims this has transformed their quality of life and even helped combat some of the symptoms of dementia.

Retired major Jonathan Cunningham (47) is regularly spotted riding through the streets of Southport, Merseyside, in northwest England with elderly folk snuggled under blankets.

Decorating the rickshaw for the festive season, Jonathan claims his "rickshaw therapy" gives residents – especially those with dementia – greater emotional contentment, helps to trigger memories and sleep better.

Jonathan, who owns the Rosebank Care Home and manages Birkdale Park Nursing Home in Southport, says it also helps them sleep better.

"It's like my little magic wagon.

"It's about giving them the best standard of living in their final years, months and weeks. It gets them out into the fresh air, and they can have a bag of chips or an ice cream on the promenade."

Jonathan says he's noticed a real improvement in their wellbeing.

"It's transformative. It's better for their general wellbeing. They eat and sleep better and the payoff is huge. They're getting more vitamin D which can be difficult for elderly people – they [usually] have to have injections for it.

"The nice thing is you take them out for a day and they'll feed off that experience for two to three weeks afterwards. It will replay in their memory, and reminiscing about it is very powerful."

He also insists it's great for those living with dementia because between 5pm and 6pm is an anxious time for people with dementia.

"When the light goes down they can become more restless or confused but we've found we see less of that when they've been out on the rickshaw."

Although it might sound boring for anyone else, Jonathan says for the elderly it's sometimes the highlight of their stay at the home.

"It's about giving these beautiful people who have the most amazing tales a little adventure."

Jonathan, who spent 16 years in the army, completing tours in Northern Ireland and Iraq, read about a young man in Denmark who bought a rickshaw and took the elderly around in it.

Jonathan says when he saw that he though it was the most amazing thing he'd ever seen.

"I found [a rickshaw] for about £300. It was completely dilapidated – all twisted and with no wheels. I reconstructed it and turned it into something spectacular.

"It really turns heads. People can't help but take pictures when we're out and about."

The dad of three, who was awarded an MBE in 2010 for his work engaging youth in the community, says the trips out also keep him fit and healthy and are winning praise from health authorities.

"It's an honour to look after these people and it sure makes a difference from commanding a 40-ton army tank."

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