COVID-19 has illuminated and exacerbated many challenges in Canadian society, but one of the more
disturbing realities that has surfaced since the pandemic’s onset is the quality of care many seniors
receive in long-term care facilities. During COVID-19 with social distancing measures in effect, many
seniors have felt isolated from families, friends, and other loved ones. While many of us took to
technology to communicate and connect with our social circles, many Canadian seniors could not do the
same. They often feel disconnected, isolated, and alone. With this reality in mind, a group of University of
Ottawa medical students created Ride to Connect (RTC) in June, 2020.
Ride to Connect is a cycling fundraiser, awareness, and advocacy initiative. RTC’s mission is to reduce
social isolation and loneliness in Canadian seniors by improving technology access and literacy through
fundraising, awareness, and advocacy. RTC has pursued its mission through collaboration with
Connected Canadians, an established non-profit organization promoting digital literacy skills amongst
seniors by providing free technology access, training, and support. Using social media platforms,
including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Strava, RTC reaches thousands of followers in an effort to
raise awareness of social isolation and loneliness amongst Canadian seniors, and the technological
divide between seniors and younger generations
Initially, RTC began as a pledge from a group of eleven medical students to collectively cycle across
Canada to raise awareness for senior social isolation, but since its inception, RTC has evolved into much
more. In its inaugural campaign, RTC fundraised $53,000 for the acquisition of 100 iPads with 4
months of cellular data, which were distributed to 18 long term care homes, community centres,
and low income housing groups across Canada. RTC’s social media channels have expanded to
reach thousands of Canadians from coast to coast. In addition, all recipients have access to a
1-on-1 technology mentorship program aimed to help seniors connect to the online world. The
Ride to Connect Community Cycling Club grew to nearly 500 cyclists, from beginners to Canadian
Olympians, and collectively cycled 285,000 km.
How beneficial has the new tech access been to recipient seniors? A 101 year old recipient can now
enjoy different music and listen to Ukrainian news. Another recipient was inspired through her tech
accomplishments to author a book, and another says she looks up recipes, keeps up with news, and
connects with family – things that she never had the opportunity to do before being given access to her
iPad. The positive feedback from recipients has inspired the RTC team to build off of last campaign’s
momentum and aim even higher.
This summer RTC is hosting the 2nd Annual RTC campaign beginning on June 7th, 2020. The
group has partnered with Connected Canadians and the Bruyère Foundation with hopes of raising
$75,000 for electronic tablet acquisition and a technology mentorship program. Additionally, they
are hoping to expand their Ride to Connect Community Cycling Club on Strava to collectively
cycle 500,000 km.
RTC is looking for the help and support of others to achieve its heightened goals and help Canadian
seniors from coast to coast. After such a tumultuous 2020 and start to 2021, the group hopes their
initiative can help foster a sense of social unity and positivity all while addressing an important social
issue. Here’s how you can help support RTC during their 2nd annual campaign:
● Follow or like @RidetoConect on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Share your bike rides on
social media with the hashtag #RidetoConnect
● Join the registered Ride to Connect Community Club on Strava and cycle for their cause. Cyclists
of all experience levels are welcome to join!
● Consider donating to RTC if you are able! RTC recognizes current times are challenging for
many. Donations can be made on the official RTC website: https://ridetoconnect.ca/
Thank you for your support and interest in Ride to Connect. We hope you join our community and help us
work towards closing the gap in tech access and literacy in seniors across Canada!