How do I Beach with my elderly mother?
August 2, 2019 2:41 AM   Subscribe

My mom will be 84 in September. She would like to go to the beach for her birthday, probably for the last time. I'd like suggestions to help make it great. Snowflakes inside.

If any mefites have traveled to a seashore in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey or Virginia in recent years, especially as or with an elderly or disabled person, I'd love to hear what you recommend and don't recommend, in terms of beaches, hotels, and activities.

Her birthday is September 3rd but she'd like to do it a bit later in the month, thinking there will be fewer people then. I'm not so sure, seems like weekdays when kids are back in school would be fine? Neither of us wants a place overrun by tourists.

My mom uses a walker (or sometimes two canes), but she's said she is willing do a wheelchair for portions of this trip (yay) which will make her more mobile. We would either need to rent a wheelchair elsewhere and bring it, or go to a place that has them. I am guessing we'd want a nice boardwalk to wheel around, but if wheelchairs can genuinely work on the beach. I'm ok with pushing one. Ideally I'd like her to be able to go all the way down to the water if she wants to without endangering her.

She also needs oxygen from a big (not easily portable) tank 12+ hours a day. So this needs to be car travel only. I can lug the tank up some stairs to a hotel room, but don't want to be bothered with trying to get it onto and out of trains/planes/busses along with everything else.

We live in central Maryland, and have pets that we would probably only want to leave one overnight. So far we've discussed Ocean City (based on old memories, too touristy), Rehoboth and Dewey beaches. I'd welcome suggestions for other beaches as long as I can drive there in 4 hours at most (3 would be better).

She'd really like to see the sunrise and sunset over the water. Suggestions for hotels with genuinely unobstructed views would be great.

She's enjoyed going into little antique and taffy shops on a boardwalk on previous trips, so somewhere that has such would be nice but isn't absolutely necessary.

Years ago, we went on a cruise to Alaska together, and she loved the shore excursions such as a lift up a mountain, riding in a seaplane, and visiting a raptor preserve. If there is an activity in the same vein that is doable with wheelchair or very limited walking, that would be great, but also not strictly necessary.

Money is not (much of) an object. I want to make this great for her.
posted by nirblegee to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When my husband's then three-year-old niece who needs oxygen came to our wedding, her parents were able to rent a compressor from a local pharmacy/medical supply company so they wouldn't have to bring enough tanks for the whole trip. There was something about a more portable type of compressor that she would be able to use when she was older, too.

I've seen wheelchairs with really big tires available for use on beaches at state parks, but I've never tried pushing one.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 3:40 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

I know this is vague, but I just saw a Facebook story about nursing home residents being taken to a beach. They were in special wheelchairs with huge inflated tires, and they were wheeled right into the surf. They had their clothes on, but everything rolled up and bare feet. They looked so happy!

Maybe Google "beach wheelchair" to see what's available, and you might try contacting nursing home/ assisted care facilities in the area you will be taking your mom. They may be able to help you find a rental chair. I so hope you can do this for your mom! Good luck!
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:02 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]

I have experience with many of those beaches from childhood as I grew up in rockville, Maryland. But not for decades.

It may be far for an overnight but I would suggest Wildwood, NJ. We went in 2008 and it still has the feel from the 60s. Low motels, taffy shops, small boardwalk. Wide beaches.

Good luck with the trip. I hope it fills you are will wonderful memories to carry you for decades.
posted by terrapin at 4:38 AM on August 2, 2019

It looks like Ocean City has beach wheelchairs but only until Labor Day.
posted by mskyle at 5:18 AM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

Rehoboth is our annual beach of choice for over a decade. If you have questions I don't think to answer, feel free to ping me.

We rent a house, and go over memorial day, to avoid the crowds (that leave on Monday morning). So I don't really have hotel advice as much as general beach advice. The boardwalk will definitely be wheelchair accessible. I'd also suggest staying roughly in the Rehoboth Avenue area, as that's where the bulk of the cute stores are. In general, it's a flat town that I don't think you'll have trouble traversing on a leisurely browsing pace together.

So there are two hotels that I can think of that might work. I can't say anything about rooms, but thinking about options:
1) The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel is directly on the boardwalk. It's a Victorian (like they have high tea) place, and I suspect they cater to an older clientele than say, the folks who go down there for Dogfish brewpub.
2) The Bellmoor Inn and Spa, which is off the boardwalk, and won't see much of a view, but we see folks shuttled up to the boardwalk multiple times a day on their golf cart. That might be helpful to you, as they'd be able to load up the oxygen and the wheelchair for you. It's also a bit off the beaten path as far as the bars go, so it might be quieter.

If you approach the beach from Delaware Avenue, there's a pathway to the beach that is covered with blue ribbed plastic "carpeting" that will get you from the boardwalk onto the sand itself. Once you're on the sand though - I have no idea. We see a ton of folks there with strollers when we're there, so it's obviously possible. There are quite a few of these entries along the boardwalk, that's just where we go in at, so I know it's specific location. We've gone back down a few times in October (for the Halloween festival) and it's been lovely. As I said, we go every year, and it's one of my favorite places on earth, so I can try to point you in good directions. I hope it's an amazing trip for you both.
posted by librarianamy at 5:19 AM on August 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

Bethany Beach provides beach wheelchairs until September 15th. I haven't been there in years but remember it being somewhat calmer than either Rehoboth or Ocean City.
posted by mareli at 5:21 AM on August 2, 2019

I would recommend Cape May, NJ. It's a beautiful town with lots of Victorian architecture, it's easy to get around, and it's much quieter than Wildwood and some of the other shore points. It has the Promenade, which is like a boardwalk in spots, but it's mostly paved rather than boards—so it's probably better for a wheelchair. There's an arcade and some shops and restaurants on the Promenade, but it's mostly open stretches where you can take in the beach and the ocean.

It also has the Washington St. Mall, which is a street that's closed to traffic that has a lot of quaint shops and restaurants, and that's nice for strolling around as well.

You mentioned you enjoyed cruising—if your mom is up to it, and interested in doing another cruise, that might not be a bad option, as the cruise lines tend to be very friendly to people with accessibility needs. You wouldn't have to fly—there are cruises from New York City to Bermuda which could be perfect. Bermuda has beautiful beaches, is good for strolling around, and is quiet and friendly (nobody's going to hassle you and try to sell you stuff). Cruises there typically dock there for 3 days, basically turning the ship into a floating hotel, and allowing you to get around at your leisure. Your meals would be taken care of for the entire time, which is a bonus.
posted by vitout at 5:30 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about Ocean City New Jersey? The ocean is pretty close to the boardwalk and its a "dry" town - no bars or selling alcohol, but you can buy it and bring it yourself to drink in your hotel, which makes it a very nice family friendly place. My parents always rented a house there in late September/early October and the weather is still beautiful - not too hot. They have some nice activities on the weekends through the fall, but if you went during a week day after school starts, it is very quiet and relaxing.

While they don't do the beach wheelchair thing after Labor Day, here is a list of ADA compliant beaches with extended beach access mats.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:41 AM on August 2, 2019

I, too, would recommend Ocean City, NJ in the fall. The boardwalk is well-maintained and they have ramps down into the sand. We stay at this motel every year and I think it would work well for your needs- right near the boardwalk and beach, parking on site and an elevator to all floors.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:19 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Can't advise on beaches, but what you want is an oxygen *concentrator*. You should be able to rent one from the place that supplies your mom's tanks or, if not, they'll be able to direct you.

Have a wonderful trip. It's pretty cool to feel like someone's fairy godmother.
posted by kate4914 at 6:30 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the American North East one can only see the sunrise over the ocean; sunset happens over land.

If your mom is using a concentrator at home then a portable one is way easier to manage than tanks are while on the go and for any serious outing will weigh less. I think the one I occasionally rented for my father was like 5lbs with the batteries. You'll want to have a tank or two in the car still in case of equipment failure.
posted by Mitheral at 7:36 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Island Beach State Park is a beach with wheelchair ramps down to the sand and sand wheelchairs available from the lifeguard stations. Rehoboth has beech wheelchairs and sand walkways for standard wheelchairs.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:36 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

(Sorry, here are my sources: Rohoboth | Island Beach. You actually have loads of options to make this a great trip, just make sure you pick a beach with sand wheelchairs available after Labor Day. Have fun!
posted by DarlingBri at 7:45 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ocean City MD will not be as crowded or touristy after Labor Day, especially on weekdays. It is the perfect time of year to visit. I would stay in one of the newer hotels because they will have the best amenities and access for things. There is a Marriott Courtyard on the boardwalk with beautiful views. Perfect for sunrise. The sun does set over water, the Assawoman Bay, and the best place to see it is Fager's Island Restaurant with the perfectly timed 1812 Overture. The Dunes Manor Hotel is also very nice, ocean front with a verandah full of rocking chairs, onsite dining and complimentary afternoon Tea and Scones. The Ocean City Lifesaving Museumlocated at the end of the boardwalk is very interesting and small so it is only a short time walking around that she may enjoy. It has been a while but I remember liking the display of ladies' bathing suits through the years! You can rent wheelchairs in OC, including motorized beach types since the free ones are only through Labor Day.
posted by maxg94 at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

Virginia Beach, VA. there's a pier with a few little gift shops, they sell hand-made saltwater taffy, fudge, etc. It's a very long stretch of beach, and it accessible by wheelchair at many points, with extended walkways further into the beach, to get closer to the water. I know you said money is no object, but the beach wheelchair rental is free and goes until Oct 1st. The Courtyard South (there's two, the south is the one you want) Is directly on the beach at a street that has wheelchair access (24th street). You'd simply have to walk out of the hotel lobby, across the sidewalk, and down the walkway onto the beach. There is also an accessible restroom here. there's a boardwalk that runs the length of the beach, and there's frequently vendors set up selling art and stuff. There's
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

We rent a condo in the Henlopen on Rehoboth's boardwalk in October. My Mom is the same age and using a walker. One caveat: we have to walk down the driveway as there are stairs to the boardwalk. 511 North Boardwalk. We have not stayed in the attached hotel, but love the location, with the small park behind the building.

The beach replenishment efforts mean that sitting on the boardwalk, you can see the skyline but not the beach. Mom was interested to see a beach wedding where one of the grandparents was in a beach wheelchair. We have not looked into ourselves.

Another friend & I stayed at the Hilton in Ocean City MD. We were attending an event at the convention center. Weather was wet & cold, so it was nice to eat in the hotel Friday night. They might have information on beach wheelchairs. It was a nice suite with a kitchenette, 2 double beds and a foldout couch. Address is 3200 North Baltimore.
posted by MichelleinMD at 9:51 AM on August 2, 2019

Ocean City only has free beach wheelchairs until Labor Day. I think Bethany and Rehoboth still have them until mid-September. But if money's no object you can rent them from any number of places. They're not that expensive given the benefit they offer. You note that Ocean City is on the table based on old memories but is too touristy; I'd like to note that after Labor Day, it's definitely not. My mom goes every year at the end of September and stays on the far north end (above 110th) and it's just as you describe: dreamy, sunrises and sunsets - be sure to reserve a sunset dining time at Faeger's. Skip the VRBO/AirBNB and just contact the local realtors; my mom has used Coldwell Banker of Ocean City for her getaways for 30+ years, our old neighbors used Long & Foster. And the hotels have improved a lot, you can actually stay at a nice hotel even down below 30th now, and in late September it will be pretty peaceful. While Shantytown is no longer there, the boardwalk still is, and is still a delight even late in the season. Kids are back in school, so lots of retirees and DINKS and locals.
posted by juniperesque at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the American North East one can only see the sunrise over the ocean; sunset happens over land.

Not if you've got a nearby bay, like Henlopen Bay, Cape Cod Bay, or others. :-)
posted by jgirl at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

mareli: "Bethany Beach provides beach wheelchairs until September 15th. I haven't been there in years but remember it being somewhat calmer than either Rehoboth or Ocean City."

Bethany is much more quiet than Rehoboth or Ocean City. It has a small but nice boardwalk and town area. OC and Rehoboth are probably 20 minutes in either direction for more action.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:12 AM on August 2, 2019

I stayed at the Bellmore Inn and Spa at Rehoboth Beach last year and would recommend it. Very comfortable, full breakfast and afternoon tea included, a secure underground car park, and I thought it was excellent value for the quality of accommodation. From what I recall, it seemed accessible for elderly people. There's a main building and a courtyard annexe (where we stayed). You'd be better off in the main building, I think, as the courtyard rooms might be more difficult to navigate.
posted by essexjan at 2:59 AM on August 3, 2019

Miss the edit window. Here's the website for the Bellmore.
posted by essexjan at 3:05 AM on August 3, 2019

....and we have a winner! Ocean city, MD it is. The idea of scones and tea on a veranda with rocking chairs, combined with high balcony views of the ocean appeals to her, so we'll be staying at Dunes Manor Hotel. Sand Helper wheelchair will be delivered straight to the hotel, yay.

Thank you to everyone, this was really helpful.
posted by nirblegee at 1:57 PM on August 3, 2019 [5 favorites]

Want to put in a late second plug for cape may, nj. Really nice victorian arcitecture, nice restaurants, more adult oriented than family with young kids like some nearby beaches, and you can take a nice trip on the car ferry from lewes de to get there
posted by WeekendJen at 5:57 AM on August 4, 2019

Mom nixed any beaches in New Jersey because "there are too many New Yorkers there".
posted by nirblegee at 5:14 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

How dare! And it least for Ocean City, it’s way more Philly folk.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:49 PM on August 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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