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Seniors enjoy night life, sand, sun on O.C. trip

October 14, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Nursing home resident Lillian Houck said her first trip to the resort's famous Boardwalk, sandy beaches and restaurants was an adventure worth the wait.

"It was the most wonderful trip I think I've ever had," Houck, 85, said.

Houck's son and family members of some other trip participants accompanied them on their vacation Sept. 25-27.

"We wanted the families to come along and have a good time. We felt like this might be the last time they could vacation together as a family," said Guessford, who started scouting for Ocean City lodging suitable for older senior citizens several years ago.

Such senior-friendly accommodations as wheelchair-accessible rooms, ramps to the Boardwalk and an in-house restaurant made the Howard Johnson Oceanfront Plaza Hotel at 12th Street on the Boardwalk a perfect fit for the retirement center's needs, Guessford said.

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Connecting rooms on the hotel's sixth and seventh floors offered privacy while giving Williamsport Retirement Village employees quick access to their senior citizen clients, he said.

About a dozen staffers attended to the seniors' medical needs around-the-clock and helped transport the seniors and such equipment as wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, Guessford said.

He had each senior's medical chart on hand and had contacted local doctors and hospitals about the upcoming trip in case of an emergency.

Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias greeted the Williamsport visitors soon after they arrived at the resort.

Eager to experience Boardwalk night life after dinner at the hotel, the seniors strolled and rolled more than seven streets to watch an evening kite demonstration on the beach, Guessford said.

The agenda for the trip's second day included a visit to nearby Assateague Island National Seashore where the seniors snapped photographs of the park's wild ponies and saw a slide show and exhibits at the visitors center, Guessford said.

"Bodacious" burgers and heaping stacks of onion rings proved lunchtime favorites at Big Pecker's Bar and Grill on 73rd Street, Guessford said, and ice cream from Dumser's Dairyland was a big hit following dinner at the Ember's Restaurant on 23rd Street.

Some seniors said they've never slept better than when they were lulled to sleep by the sound of the Atlantic Ocean's waves outside their balcony doors.

"I just loved the sound of the water. It was beautiful," Houck said.

The trip was funded in part by proceeds from a weeklong silent auction at Williamsport Retirement Village and by corporate donations, Guessford said. The seniors' family members were asked to contribute $100, he said.

Even those Williamsport Retirement Village residents who didn't get to experience the sights and sounds of the beach first-hand got a taste of such beach treats as funnel cakes, Boardwalk fries and sand.

During the month preceding the senior trip, Williamsport Retirement Village was decorated with surfboards and other beach motifs, Guessford said. Residents watched beach movies, listened to beach music, ate resort-type fare and built sandcastles and dug for shells in sand shipped to the nursing center, he said.

"It wasn't just three days of fun. It was a whole month of anticipation," Guessford said.

He plans to add an extra day to the trip next year.

"I can't wait," said Houck. "It couldn't come too soon for me."

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