One Dream, Two Women, Three Friendships
In 2016, Our Better World told the story of the friendship between Aunty Annie and Pernille.
Pernille, an expat from Denmark would take Aunty Annie on a regular trishaw ride. Together, they showed the benefits of taking the elderly out for a ride.
Expats are always on the move and the time came for Pernille and her family to leave Singapore. As luck would have it, as she was leaving, I had just arrived. We met in November 2016 just as I was looking for something good to do for the country that was to become my new home.
Pernille and I immediately clicked. She shared with me her dream for all the elderly in Singapore to have access to free trishaw rides and how sad she was to leave that dream behind. She also had not found anyone who wanted to take over Cycling Without Age Singapore from her.
I was intrigued by Cycling Without Age for two reasons. One: I had spent 20 years working in elderlycare (homecare, hospitals, nursing homes), and two: I am Dutch and like the Danes, cycling has always been a part of my life. Even when I was pregnant with my youngest child, I still cycled everywhere. I loved to cycle home after school or work to feel the wind in my hair, clear my head and arrive home relaxed and refreshed.
It was Pernille’s enthusiasm about the impact on the well-being of the elderly that made me decide to try to make trishaw rides accessible for all elderly in Singapore and take over the reins at Cycling Without Age.
And of course, there was Aunty Annie's regular trishaw rides.
I finally met Aunty Annie in January 2017 at the Salvation Army’s Lunar New Year celebration. She was delighted to finally meet me, as I was thrilled to meet her! She told me she missed Pernille a lot and was hoping I could take her out on trishaw rides again.
A month later, we finally went on a trishaw ride. It started raining that first ride, but we had a nice chat together under the hood of the trishaw that kept us dry. Aunty Annie told me a lot about her life.
We found out that we both love food and cooking. Aunty Annie had me try Chinese rojak, bee hoon and fritters and showed me how to make them. Annie’s Atjar (Achar or pickled vegetables) is absolutely the best in the world!
Since that day in February, I’ve tried to meet Aunty Annie once a month for a ride. She’s taught me to play mahjong (my kids are better at as they can read Chinese and I can’t). I’ve taken her to a musical performance and we did a long haul, all-day ride from River Valley, via the river to Merlion Park, Gardens by the Bay, Marine Barrage and East Coast Park.
I love to be around her. She is always so happy and grateful! But because I’m busy getting more trishaws into Singapore for more elderly people to experience the ride, we’re not able to see each other as often as we’d like. I know I can’t replace Pernille, but I’ve come to realise that I’m not supposed to. My friendship with Aunty Annie is our own.
I am grateful to be a part of Cycling Without Age as we organise other eldercare-related activities. Aunty Annie has been there supporting the cause and sharing her experiences with the trishaw rides and how it affected her life. I hope this will inspire companies and individuals to get involved and give back to the elderly of Singapore who build up this fantastic country to how it is right now!
Pernille, Aunty Annie and I are in touch on Facebook. Our friendships endure. And the dream lives on.
Since taking over, Marieke has registered Cycling Without Age as a non-profit. In early 2018, CWA received a grant from Temasek Foundation Cares for their intergenerational bonding project, Moving Generations which launched in August 2018. They now have 10 additional trishaws and are close to their goal of 10 partner centres by the end of 2018.