Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Bondi2BlueMountains and Twilight Aged Care

Bondi2BlueMountains bicycle riders group photo

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (19:30): Ku‑ring‑gai is no stranger to bicycle events that raise money for charity. The Bobbin Head Cycle Classic, or Bobbo, run by our local Rotary Clubs for 10 years, has raised over $1 million for Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury, as well as many other local charities including KYDS, Hornsby Ku-ring‑gai Women's Shelter and KNC, formerly known as Ku-ring-gai Neighbourhood Centre. I will be starting the Bobbo in a couple of weeks on 28 March. Two weeks ago I had the privilege to meet and be hosted by Horton House in Gordon at a breakfast for 37 bike riders who set off for the Bondi2BlueMountains Ride to Remember, an extension of the Bondi2Berry, which began in 2016 to raise awareness and funds for Dementia Australia. This year Twilight Aged Care was a proud sponsor. Its CFO, Martin Pengilly, also rode in the event.

Twilight is a standalone not‑for‑profit organisation that has a unique history spanning over 105 years. It was initially created in the early 1900s by a group of women who wanted to provide support for vulnerable women in the area. It is now an organisation that operates four residential aged‑care homes across northern Sydney including Glengarry House in Mosman, Hunters Hill Village, Glades Bay Gardens in Gladesville and Horton House in Gordon. Many residents of the 45‑bed facility in Gordon ventured out into the beautiful morning to watch the riders arrive, share breakfast and have a chat.

From what I saw, the residents, staff and riders enjoyed the morning, which would not have been possible a few months ago with COVID‑19 restrictions. Although last year residents were treated to in‑house events and activities, their usual freedoms to visit local clubs, shops and restaurants were significantly curtailed. I take this opportunity to commend the team at Horton House. Twilight's CEO, Neil Wendt, advised me that their residents were patient and calm throughout 2020 as they recognised the risk of exposure to the virus and appreciated the efforts being undertaken by all the staff. Luckily, throughout the height of the pandemic the home remained safe and virus free. Even the flu was kept at bay due to the strong infection control precautions they had in place.

Horton House in Gordon was the first stop for the riders participating in the Bondi2BlueMountains ride before travelling to Katoomba, Lithgow, Goulburn, Kiama and along the beautiful coast to finish up in Coogee. It was particularly special for co‑founder Nick Young, whose dad, Douglas, is a long‑term resident at Twilight's Glengarry House. Nick's father was diagnosed with dementia at 67 years of age, which prompted Nick to use his passion for cycling to fundraise. I had the pleasure of addressing the riders, staff and residents of Horton House alongside Neil and Nick. Many riders present had a personal connection—parents who had passed away from the terrible disease or family members in nursing homes. It was a ride to remember loved ones. To be part of the morning's event was inspirational. Hopefully, in a friendlier, post‑COVID world, riders will be able to visit residents inside their homes. Over four days the riders and crew spoke to a number of public schools, local organisations and councils, raising awareness of dementia.

The data on dementia is astounding. It is the greatest cause of disability for people over the age of 65. In Australia, a diagnosis of dementia occurs every six minutes. There are over 450,000 Australians living with the disease and for the past two years it has been the leading cause of death for females, outstripping cancer. There is no cure and it does not discriminate. As a community we need to improve these statistics, and the only way to do that is through awareness and research.

Since 2016 Nick and everyone who has participated has raised over $500,000 to help find a cure. This ride, together with Bondi2Berry last December, raised $175,000. Although the ride was postponed last year and they faced some significant roadblocks with COVID-19, to see all 37 riders on their bikes with a smile on their face was truly fantastic. Four days, 650 kilometres and over 9,000 metres of elevation—I congratulate all riders, crew and everyone who supported this ride. It was an extraordinary achievement. In my electorate of Ku-ring-gai our aging population is only growing. I thank the riders, sponsors and support crew for helping raise money and taking positive steps towards the resolution of a significant medical problem in our community.