One of my earliest memories of Jenny Tomko is seeing her riding her bike around Leaside with a child on the front, another on the back, and two more pedaling on their own leading the way. But Jenny’s cycling life began much, much earlier, as a toddler on a tricycle. For more than 70 years, cycling has been a near constant in her life and she continues to bike at an age when some may wonder if they’re past pedaling. What keeps her going?
“I continue to bike because bicycling to me is a way of life,” she says. “It helps me stay fit and healthy. I have always been inspired by Einstein’s quote, ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.’ Bicycling keeps me moving.”
Cycling for transportation
In her early years in Canada, a bike was simply an affordable way to get around. When Jenny worked at Queen’s University in the late 60s, that was what she and her friends did. Later in Toronto, she would cycle on Avenue Rd. to the University of Toronto, something she doubts she would attempt today. Until a few years ago, she regularly rode from Leaside to her job at the Holland Orthopaedic and Arthritic Centre on Wellesley. Now retired and without a daily commute, Jenny aims to ride every day when the weather is good.
Keeping fit and healthy
Today her cycling excursions tend to be for exercise and errands. Among her favourite places to cycle are the Toronto Islands, the Beltline Trail and the Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In Leaside we are blessed with many amenities within a comfortable cycling distance. Long before we heard about cargo-biking moms, Jenny did her grocery shopping by bike and still does, although the loads are much lighter and the trips less frequent now that she doesn’t have four growing kids under her roof.
Benefits outweigh the barriers
Our capacity to cycle changes as we age – hills are not as hospitable, balance and flexibility may not be what they once were, and peripheral vision can be diminished. But the benefits from biking make it worthwhile to overcome the barriers. Cycling is a low impact form of exercise, easy on the joints, and helpful with conditions such as osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Changing to a step-thru frame or an e-bike is one way to help people bike later in life. Making sure our roadways are safe and can accommodate people of all ages on bikes is another.
New group forming
Whenever new cycling infrastructure is proposed in Toronto, a frequent objection is that only the young and the athletic will use it. But people like Jenny dispel the myth that older adults don’t bike. A new group is forming in midtown, specifically to encourage older people to rediscover life on a bike, through events, education and advocacy. To learn more, contact .