‘Golden Rollers’ reconnecting older adults, revitalizing relationships during pandemic


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Every Wednesday morning, Ana Villalobos shows up at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center in east Austin and makes her way to a nearby trail. Villalobos is on a mission; she has a goal.

“I like to go fast,” Villalobos said, sitting on her trike ready to go for a bike ride. “It does feel good. The wind in your hair especially on a hot day.”

Villalobos, along with Kathy Lamb and Mary Reyes, is a Golden Roller.

“Golden is kind of a term like the golden years, the Golden Girls,” said Christopher Stanton, the founder and executive director of the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative that developed the free program Golden Rollers.

For months, the COVID-19 pandemic kept many of these older adults apart. One study found loneliness in older adults doubled in the first couple of months of 2020 compared to 2018.

“I completed isolated out of fear,” Mary Reyes said.

For some, the pandemic continues to keep them isolated. Golden Rollers hopes to provide a connection.

“Socialization is very important for us, especially during this pandemic,” Villalobos said.

“It’s not just a physical health issue, it’s a mental health issue,” Stanton added.

While Lamb chimed in saying, “This is like really a Godsend.”

For now, Villalobos hopes other older adults will join her proving you’re never too old to roll.

“Just get out here, get active, move around, you’ll feel better,” Villalobos said.

There are 10 locations across Austin and San Antonio.

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