Seniors across the world face a myriad of challenges, a common one of which is social isolation. Often they spend many hours alone, leading to depression and other of physical and mental health issues. In the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, an area most known for poverty and drug use, seniors can be particularly excluded. Regularly confined to their Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel room, the elderly in the Tenderloin can sometimes feel trapped.
Through the revolutionary program, Cycling Without Age (CWA), seniors can break free from the confines of their rooms and explore the city around them. Founded in Copenhagen in response to their aging population and inspired by their strong cycling culture CWA was created to connect able bodied riders with senior passengers with the goal of enjoying a shared experience. Using their unique trishaw bike design, volunteer cyclists are able to take up to 2 seniors on adventures beyond their neighborhood.
With Zendesk's location in the Tenderloin and a strong commitment to our communities around the globe, Zendesk saw the opportunity to bring CWA to San Francisco and develop a new program in partnership with the Curry Senior Center, a local multi-service senior center. Focusing on the goal of creating opportunities for Zendesk employees and clients of the Curry Senior Center to have shared positive experiences, Zendesk purchased two new trishaws for the Curry Senior Center.
While the program initiatively started with the purchase of 2 trishaws from Cycling Without Age, the program required much more nurturing to get off the ground than initially expected. During the implementation of this initiative considerations had to be taken regarding the safety for the passengers and riders, scheduling, logistics, and recruitment of both Curry Senior Center residents and Zendesk employees.
By utilizing the strategy of collaboration, both Zendesk and Curry Senior Center were able to come together to brainstorm, pool resources, and overcome the obstacles that challenged the launch and maintenance of the program.
After working through the kinks, the program formally took off in September 2016. Seniors have successfully left their rooms and even their neighborhood to go on journeys throughout San Francisco. From Giant's stadium to Fisherman's Wharf, seniors who had not left the Tenderloin for years are now able to relive their younger days by going on a bike ride. Both seniors and Zendesk volunteers return from rides invigorated and excited to share stories of their adventures. Now every week at least three seniors and two Zendesk employees are out on the trishaws, conversing on life, and building community.