Helen Martin: Ton-up Helen is worth the risk

100 year old Helen Kennedy having a ride on a trike with the biker group from Queensferry
100 year old Helen Kennedy having a ride on a trike with the biker group from Queensferry
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IT’S not unusual for a lady or gentleman approaching their 100th birthday to feature in newspapers and TV news.

But for Helen Kennedy from South Queensferry, who celebrated her coming century with 100 bikers roaring across the Queensferry Crossing and back, headlines and air time were inevitable.

I was happy to be along for the ride that day because Helen is a resident at the care home where my mother spent her last seven years and ­Callum, the activities expert there, planned the event.

For anyone who thinks bikers – with many men of traditional big-build sporting a showcase of hair and beards, and both sexes dressed in leathers, chains and helmets – are a scary lot, nothing could be further from the truth.

Bikers Cove café, next to the famous Hawes Inn (where Helen once worked) hosted the gathering of powerful, shiny machines worth thousands and their riders meeting her arrival with horn tooting and applause.

A special trike with two passenger seats on the back accommodated Helen and her grand-daughter. The biker police officer was there having given up his day off to help with the cavalcade. And the Bikers Cove Café rustled up the birthday cake.

Charity is their thing, whether it’s raising thousands of pounds in support of the local RNLI or providing a day out an old lady and all her entourage would never forget. They’re a big ‘family’ and a welcoming community.

But the memorable day threw up something else to ponder, a challenge that faces every care home and the inspectorate that regulates the industry.

In caring for the vulnerable elderly, safety has to be paramount and rules and regulations have to be adhered to, as they were on that day.

Yet many care homes wouldn’t even have considered it possible for them to have delivered a biker ride for a 100-year-old, wheelchair-bound lady.

If Helen had said she was too afraid or didn’t feel comfortable with it, the ride wouldn’t have gone ahead. She loved it, she likes adventure, meeting people and new experiences.

Risk is a major factor in caring for the elderly. Those who are mobile are free to move around and dance in their care home – but naturally, they can trip and fall, even if they are being watched.

Moving any part of the body, even an arm, carries the risk of bumping into something and bruising.

Life is never without risks. Sitting strait-jacketed in a chair all day might reduce the chance of harm but even that has a bad effect on circulation and skin sores, let alone mental boredom and despair.

Not all care home residents can or want to cope with day after day sitting in a lounge sipping tea and watching TV. That’s why the activities organiser role is vital, particularly because it’s their job to know the interests, personality and wishes of residents.

Should residents and their families have the right to ask for challenging risk management to make a dream come true and provide an experience that care homes and regulators might initially rule out . . . a ride on a horse, going up in a high wheel – or joining a biker ride?

Nothing is 100 per cent safe. But balancing risk with enhancing the quality of life is crucial.

Wise words from Sillars on independence

JIM Sillars, once an SNP grandee and still an ‘elder statesman’ member, is bringing a refreshing and enlightened approach to the debate over independence.

His point (in my simplistic interpretation) is that while the SNP may be seen to be about independence, independence is not necessarily about the SNP.

An honest and well-considered debate about what is best for Scotland (whether one is for or against pulling out of the UK) is never going to happen if it is inexorably linked to one political party.

And if independence was ever to happen, the SNP, like every other party, would be on a new playing field.

He also recommends a great deal of solid research . . . exactly what every single voter wanted not just for the Scottish referendum but for Brexit. The SNP – and everyone else – would do well to listen to the man.

Let us pray for respect to all religions and none

BASED on responses to a recent column about the right to have Catholic schools and why they do not create sectarianism, there is one other point I want to add to the debate.

In these times of globalisation and increasingly diverse communities, religious tolerance and respect is of the utmost importance. It also applies to those who reject any form of religion.

Put simply, live and let live. Faith, or non-faith, is a personal matter, and it should no longer be the basis for anything, from neighbourhood hostility to war.

No religion, not even the Church of England headed by the monarch, calls the shots these days despite the existence of clerics in the Lords.

The secular movement has every right to its own opinion and the freedom to express it.

Where it defies tolerance and respect is in its attitude, making unfounded allegations and aggressively attacking religious institutions and people.

Gut feeling over asthma research

EDINBURGH University research funded by Asthma UK has discovered roundworms in the intestines can prevent the condition. That’s probably why they existed in our guts anyway, before we became obsessed with hygiene, sterilisation and disinfectants.