Combined forces land eldercare center in Stokmarknes a new Motitech bike
More can see the world while exercising; Hadsel firefighters come to the rescue
Business & Sports Editor
The Norwegian American
The pandemic has limited us from traveling, but the older people at Stokmarknes Day Care Center in Northern Norway above the Arctic Circle have been able to—but they needed help.
In 2013, the Frekhaug-based Motitech released Motiview, an exercise bike equipped with videos of locations around the world. It was targeted at the elderly, not only for the physical exercise and something to watch while cycling, but also to see if it improved the memory of people with dementia. In 2017, Motitech was selected as Norway’s Social Entrepreneur of the Year. (See “Down Memory Lane,” Rasmus Falck, The Norwegian American, March 23, 2018.)
Stokmarknes Day Care Center had two bikes. “My and my colleagues’ job is to provide the best possible activity program for the elderly here, i.e., both physical and social,” said Ingeborg Mikalsen, activitør, activities supervisor, similar to recreational therapist, by phone.
“All of them have individual needs and health conditions vary, so we also need to ensure individual adaptation. Motitech also offers a separate ‘video’ program. They record videos from roads and areas that the elderly know well. When doing their exercise on these bicycles, they can watch a big screen and bicycle on roads they know well. These tours can also bring back memories, good stories, and often the talk is easy in the group.
“This is a popular activity, and we were strongly in need of one more spinning bike, but we did not have any budget for it. They really enjoy the bike, and it helps them to stay healthy, and be in good moods. Many of them come to the day center, saying, ‘I want to bike today.’”
There are about 32 people who use the center daily, picked up by the staff and taken home at the end of the day. There are some residents. The elders range in age from 70 to 97 and the 97-year-old uses the bike.
A bike costs NOK 70,000 (about $4,419.78) after taxes.
Different entities in Hadsel kommune combined forces. With only 8,000 residents, “It’s a small community where you know many people,” said Mikalsen. There are five communities in this area: Vesterålen, Lofoten, Stokmarknes, Hadsel and Melbu. “Stokmarknes is the community center of Hadsel municipality.”
Atle Nielsen works in media relations, communications, and in the political secretary office for the Hadsel municipality. Three years ago, he decided to have a fundraiser for a good cause. He was inspired by the Barkley Marathon, a race among obstacles through forests in Tennessee in which 10 have finished in 25 years.
“I tried to think of what a similar challenge in our area could be,” said Nielsen by email. “After a while, I found out that running/walking up and down the same mountain (Storheia) for 24 hours could be similarly crazy, though not as tough as the original. As I did not know if anyone in our community would be crazy enough to try something like this, I decided to do it alone. But, as I told friends and family (and the local media) about it, I decided to make it into a fundraiser, so it was not only a massive ego trip. The year after, I did it with one other person (also raising funds for a good cause).”
The Hadsel Fire and Rescue were looking to get involved in a charitable effort. There are 55 firefighters, six full-time, 49 part-time, spending about 25% of their time at the station. Twenty participated in Storheia24.
“When we realized we could put some money on the table, it was important that we use it on some activity for all the people,” said Sten-Håvard Johannessen, unit manager Hadsel Fire and Rescue. “A lot of people can use the bike. In this corona time, a lot of people are using nature around us, not just here, but in Norway and the rest of the world. When we were out in nature, I saw many employees in the mountains. We were talking about doing some challenge between colleagues while raising some money for a charity. We didn’t expect it to be so big.”
Mikalsen was nudging Nielsen that this year’s fundraiser should benefit the center.
“I am very grateful that the firemen contacted me and wanted to be a part of Storheia24, as it gave me motivation to do it again this third time (and next summer for a fourth),” said Nielsen. “We decided together that the senior center was the right cause.”
“I knew about the event, but I didn’t know that the firefighters were engaged until we were finished,” said Jan Inge Ebbesvik, CEO of Motitech. “That was the great thing about the story. That was super cool for us. We hope that this can spread, not just in Norway, but to other places as well.”
Storheia is 500 kilometers above sea level. One circuit is 5 km. From noon to noon, Aug. 13-14, the firefighters attempted to walk as many circuits in 24 hours as they could. Helge Korneliussen completed an amazing 17 trips, equivalent to 85 km and 8,500 vertical meters. And Nielsen finished at a personal best of 16 trips. They raised NOK 40,000 ($4,414.74). Ebbesvik discounted the bike, so the amount raised covered the cost.
While the firefighters and Nielsen were walking, the elders back at the day care center were using the bikes, riding along on the same road.
Stokmarknes competed in the Road Worlds for Seniors as Team Hadsel, an international competition organized by Motitech to see how far participants can ride on the bike. Awards are handed out. In 2021, 5,000 cyclists and 260 teams in 11 countries participated in the 26-day event, riding more than 156,300 km (more than 97,120 miles). This year, Team Hadsel placed 21st, its highest finish ever, with 1,780 km (1,106 miles). The winner was Bruyère Village in Canada, with 14,271 km (8,867 miles).
“They were so enthusiastic,” said Ebbsevik about Team Hadsel’s participation. “They had a queue every day for cycling during the competition.”
The firefighters showed up to present the medals from Road Worlds and gifts to the seniors. “They were physically active and raised money for something they thought was tremendous,” said Ebbesvik. “When they visited, they got to see with their own eyes what they raised money for. Sten said to me, ‘We knew this was a good thing to raise money for, but when we came down, it was, wow!’”
Motiview’s library now includes 2,100 videos from 38 countries around the world with customers in 11 nations from the Nordics to Australia to Israel to Canada. Motitech has their own film crews that “travel the world,” filming the cities.
“Every time we get a new customer, we ensure that they have at least one local video.” said Ebbesvik. “We built our video library with our customers. We do these videos from large cities around the world we know everyone has some connection to in their memory like New York, Berlin, Paris. Having at least one local video is important, so we make sure they get the local memories.”
The films serve as motivation for the seniors to use the bike. “When we’re on a bike in the gym, we’re watching a white wall,” said Ebbesvik. “We have to be encouraged by something. So, we often turn on the TV or Netflix. It’s the same for the seniors. That’s the reason this has been successful. This is motivational to be able to visit new places. You are dragged into the video, so you feel that you are in that place. That’s the effect it gives. Of course, you can tell the story about when you were there.”
Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, Ebbesvik said, “Activity actually increased at our customers.” Feedback from customers in the Nordics, United Kingdom, and Canada has revealed additional benefits in better sleep, mobility, and moods. Further, since the seniors are happier, “Staff are finding it easier to go to work.”
Motiview has additional potential socially and culturally. Programs can be built around the country being visited incorporating food, music, history. People who have been to those countries can share their experiences with the others. A music playlist is included with the films and “many are singing when they’re riding or sitting on a couch,” said Ebbesvik.
“Many of the local elderly have worked at sea and been around different continents,” said Mikalsen. “When they are biking, they remember, and often say, ‘I want to go there because I’ve been there when I was a young sailor.’ It means a lot for them and gives this extra dimension to the exercise. The bike provides good benefits physically, mentally, and socially. The videos have music that the old people like. We have several opportunities to give them the music they remember from today and the old days. We have spoken about the places and the food.”
A challenge is managing the enthusiasm. “We make a list based on the interests and functional level,” said Mikalsen. “They bike from 15 to 60 minutes. Some are so eager that we must prevent them from wearing themselves out completely.”
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 7, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American.