Meet our Nordic Fellow Ole Kassow
Ole is the founder of Cycling Without Age, which is a social initiative that seeks to take the elderly back into social life using cycling as a social technology.
His Changemaker journey
Early in Ole’s childhood, his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease affecting the central nervous system. Growing up with a father in a wheelchair and a brother with speech impairment and dyslexia, Ole learned from a young age to look beyond people’s handicaps but also witnessed how society tends to stigmatize and exclude individuals with various disabilities.
During his studies, Ole worked at nursing homes where he took care of the elderly in his spare time. Following his graduation and the death of his father at the age of 23, Ole started his career in the healthcare sector. After ten years in the business field, he decided to quit his job to start multiple initiatives with a focus on triggering a positive change in his own community.
One day Ole decided to offer a bike ride to one of the residents at a local nursing home in Denmark after thinking that the elderly might enjoy a ride in their cities. After receiving appreciative feedback following the initial ride, Ole realized he could combine his lifelong passion for cycling with the insights he gained from his family to influence a more dignified and human-centered health-care, laying the foundations for his idea: Cycling Without Age (CWA).
Ole is a changemaker and a social entrepreneur who believes in challenging conventional thinking and in inspiring people and organizations to create a better world through a focus on purpose, happiness and kindness. Ole’s vision is to build inclusive and empathetic communities where a person’s age, background or ability to move should not hinder their participation in social life. He aims to achieve this vision by reintegrating a conventionally marginalized group, the elderly, into their communities by building intergenerational bridges.
Thus, Ole started Cycling Without Age (CWA) in 2013 to bring community members from different generations together in an adventurous, natural and participatory way. CWA aspires to build a natural platform for storytelling and exchange, creating space for conversations and memories, using city life as a catalyst. While young volunteers learn about their city and the life experiences of the older person, the elderly are empowered to play an active part and share their knowledge and experience.
CWA’s strategy is comprised of three focus areas: community building and the promotion of active citizenship, replacing the current emphasis of the eldercare system with a human-centered approach and finally, shifting negative public perception of aging from it being seen as placing a burden towards being viewed as an asset for society.
Cycling Without Age is built upon five guiding values: generosity, slowness, relationships, storytelling and ‘without age’.
While empowering senior citizens, which noticeably improves the wellbeing and health of the elderly, CWA simultaneously promotes active citizenship among the younger members of society.
Besides, the convenient design of trishaw bikes that contains a small supportive engine attracts not only experienced cyclists to volunteer but also those who wish to volunteer but are less physically fit, lowering the barriers for increased civic participation. In addition, CWA tackles social isolation and disconnection between generations, empowering old and young to play an active role in society.
Ultimately, Ole’s ambition is to bring about a mindset shift in society and create empathetic and trusting communities.