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A Loving Ride Down Memory Lane

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We’ve seen it on the big screen time and time again — a young couple in love, full of laughter, riding bikes down a cobblestone path. Such a scene doesn’t just live in the movies. It’s also the story of Ed and Jean Cullen.

Ed was an avid bicycle rider all his life — a passion since childhood that he enjoyed well into adulthood, riding with friends in St. Louis, Missouri. Then when their children were grown, Ed and Jean moved from St. Louis to Austin, Texas. That’s when Jean took up riding too. Ed saw that a neighbor was selling two bikes. He bought them both, and the couple spent years riding those silver Raleigh bikes through the neighborhoods that surrounded them. It was a favorite activity they shared several times every week.

When they moved to a hilly neighborhood in 1988, their days of riding bikes turned into treasured memories of fun-filled mornings and afternoons spent together.

Many years passed by, and as the couple got older the idea of getting back on their bikes seemed further and further away. Then Jean was given a dementia diagnosis. After the diagnosis, Ed sought support from Silverado, where Jean has lived since August 2016.

As she became acclimated to the Silverado environment, the staff began to learn more about this couple of 60 years. That’s when they discovered their special memories of riding bikes together.

The Silverado team purchased two bicycles — and during one of Ed’s daily visits, he and his wife had their first bike ride together in 28 years!

It was truly a spectacular and triumphant moment that brought many to tears.

Just as the staff had suspected, mental and muscular memory kicked in as Jean and Ed began riding. Their smiles and laughter were heard up and down the halls. Ed was so grateful to re-live good times that — with a glimmer in his eye — he shared, “having these bikes certainly brought back fond memories”.

Today, bike riding has become a regular engagement at the Onion Creek community in Austin. Residents and visitors have the opportunity to ride spontaneously or with staff. It’s not uncommon to drive up to Silverado and see staff, residents or families riding around the parking lot or along the paths outside the community.

Such engagements demonstrate Silverado’s commitment to ensuring that a dementia diagnosis does not mean the end of a purposeful life. Bike riding is part of the physical activity pillar of Nexus, a Silverado program based on new research that shows there may be ways to slow the progression of dementia.

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