When New Zealander Max Vodane gave an 80-year-old woman a spin on his Harley, he had no idea he was about to launch a community project that would take off. “I visited an assisted living facility because a friend of mine wanted to surprise his grandmother with a motorcycle ride,” Vodane recalls. “It was something she’d wanted to do for a long time, so I turned up on my bike, put her in an extra leather jacket I brought and away we went. Her friends were standing there, laughing and giggling.” Seeing the look on her face afterwards—a look Vodane describes as pure delight—he realized that he could bring that same experience of joy to other seniors.
“It seemed natural to bring this opportunity to seniors in assisted living facilities,” he says. And, so GOPAT—or, Giving Older People a Thrill—was born. Vodane belonged to the local Ulysses Motorbike Club, which enthusiastically agreed to help make the dream a reality for Auckland’s over-50 set.
GOPAT, in coordination with the local Ulysses Motorbike Club, does several charity events, riding and raising money for children’s hospitals and rescue organizations, but the core of GOPAT’s mission remains in giving an unadulterated thrill to seniors. Take Ellie Steward, who was recently surprised by GOPAT riders on her 100th birthday. “You’re never too old to have fun, and I just loved every minute,” Steward says. “Landmark really opened my eyes to what I could contribute to my community,” Vodane says. “GOPAT is my way of saying ‘Thank you’ to the older generation.”