End of day one just before Qualicum-Beach

At ages 69 and 59 respectively, Jocelyn and I both rode the long tour last year: 275 km from Campbell River to Victoria over three wonderful exercise-filled days. Frances, 85, has done the long tour several times, but starting a couple of years ago, settled for the one-day 50 km tour.
The grandmothers in this group participate in this annual fundraising cycle tour for a variety of reasons – being outdoors enjoying the beauty of Vancouver Island, fitness, friendship, recovery, compassion, generosity and solidarity with the African grandmothers who are working hard, with few resources, to raise children orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
An often-overlooked outcome is the inspiration and motivation provided by the older women in the group, active, energetic and strong in their 70s and 80s.
During Jocelyn’s first tour, she was amazed by Frances, 17 years her senior, and it made her believe that it was possible she could continue for that many more years. Ten years later, I was amazed and inspired by Jocelyn; she makes me want to stay both devoted to this initiative and humble about doing so.
Role models to the younger grandmothers who are constantly being introduced to the VG4A, the women who participate in the annual cycle tour are also role models to their children and grandchildren and acquaintances. Fitness is a lifelong commitment that gives its practitioners improved health and energy. One is never too old for this commitment though the means may have to change to accommodate injuries or weaknesses that crop up along the way. The veteran members of the group recognize the importance of the weekly training rides as a way to work up to the long distances gradually and avoid injury while doing so. Our main training rides are Monday mornings, a fabulous way to start a week.
To Frances and Jocelyn and the many other inspiring grandmothers from age 55 to 80-plus whom I have met through this great initiative, congratulations on making a life choice that does so much good for both yourselves and others. May we go on for a long time motivating younger grandmothers to join us in our dual commitment to increase our own fitness levels and to support and develop children, grandmothers and communities in Africa.

Most of the women who participate in the cycle tour annually have been interested in fitness for much of their adult lives, long before it became fashionable. Though it is important to recognize that it is never too late to start, it is interesting to note that many fit and healthy older people started on this path, and committed themselves to fitness, a very long time ago. When I interviewed Frances and Jocelyn for this article, it really intrigued me how seriously they have taken their personal fitness for many decades, and ongoing, and how similar they were to me in that approach. I found even more commonalities than I had anticipated among the three of us. The cycle continues.

In Nanoose Day 2
In Nanoose Day 2

Profile of Frances Quetton:

Frances first became interested in fitness as a young mother who worked part-time. She took an aerobics class offered by a friend and was hooked. She started cycling in her 50s with a couple of groups in the Victoria area, and loved the idea of preparing for and accomplishing a long-distance ride.
In 2007, Frances joined the 1st Annual VG4A Cycle Tour at the age of 75. It was everything she hoped it would be and she has continued her involvement for all of the years since. She is often surprised by the amount of interest generated by her age and activity level. Because it has been a way of life for her for so many decades, she sees no reason to stop, and really, many reasons to continue. Her current fitness regime, at age 86, involves riding her bike with friends twice a week, and attending a gym class called Age Stronger twice a week.

Profile of Jocelyn Green:

Jocelyn first took up running after the birth of her first son. After her second son was born, she also joined the Y and got hooked on fitness classes. She trained as a fitness instructor and led fitness classes for many years after that.
She started cycling only after moving to beautiful British Columbia twelve years ago, and was introduced to the VG4A, which was just starting up at that time, by someone she met in one of her cycling groups. That led her to suggest a cycle tour as a possible fundraiser. Stephen Lewis was at that time the United Nations envoy to Africa, and keenly interested in doing something “grass roots” to help the grim situation caused by HIV/AIDS, even as the rest of the world seemed poised to make it less of a priority.
The cycle tour idea became a reality less than a year later and has continued as the primary fundraiser for the VG4A ever since.
Eleven years later, Jocelyn is still riding her bicycle, has participated in seven of the long cycle tours, and will do so again in 2017.
When not cycling, Jocelyn stays fit by hiking, downhill skiing, weight workouts at the gym and a new “Erg” (rowing) class she started recently.

If you would like to know more about this community initiative, check out these websites (www.victoriagrandmothersforafrica.ca; www.grandmotherscampaign.org; www.stephenlewisfoundation.org;), or our FB page (www.facebook.com/Victoria-Grandmothers-for-Africa-115977452288/).
Please consider riding with us this year. Contact Heather Wilson (stew2heat@shaw.ca). If you are a woman over 54 years old who can ride a bike, you’re in.
If cycling with a happy group that makes frequent pit stops for coffee, delicious food and washroom breaks while exploring this wonderful island is not your thing, please consider donating to our cause. Our team fundraising page is at http://slf.akaraisin.com/grandmotherspledges2017/cycletour275.