Edward Perryman visited Exmouth beach and ate an ice cream on his first trip outside in 10 years.
Edward, a resident at The Old Rectory care home in Exeter, was transported along Exmouth beach in a specially adapted beach wheelchair. He watched the waves crashing onto the shore, before eating an ice cream on the seafront.
The momentous moment was thanks to The Beach Wheelchair Project and the perseverance of Southern Healthcare staff, who helped empower Edward to leave the care home where he lives.
Andy Cowling, The Old Rectory’s housekeeper, explained: “Before Edward came into the care home, he’d been in a bedroom in his house in Exeter for eight years. He was very reluctant to go out because he hadn’t been out in such a long time.”
A former mechanic, Edward came to the care home in August 2022 for respite care, but he settled in quickly and decided to stay.
Andy continued: “It’s taken us a long time to encourage Edward to come out, but we’ve been able to do it. We kept offering to take him out and we found something he wanted to do – a trip to the beach.”
Edward, who is living with dementia, asked to sit and watch the waves during his beach visit with fellow care home resident, Barbara Kelly. Southern Healthcare carer Lakshmi Ajith and event coordinator Tom Matthews were also on the day trip.
Tom enthused: “It’s just amazing for the residents to do something that they did back in the day with their children, with their families. It’s great for them to have a bit of normality in their life again. Edward hadn’t been out in so long and you could see how content he was.” He added: “When we got back to the care home, Edward said how much he had enjoyed the trip and, being a gentleman, he asked Andy how much he owed him for it.”
The Beach Wheelchair Project is an Exmouth Town Council initiative providing disabled people with greater access to the beach through the provision of specially adapted, all-terrain wheelchairs, which can be hired out free of charge from the premises on Queen’s Drive.
Councillor Pauline Stott, who drove the project forward, commented: “I am so pleased that care homes have started using the wheelchairs now. My ambition with this project has always been to enable as many people as possible to go to the beach with their families and friends, regardless of disability.”
The eco-friendly storage unit is fitted with a wheelchair ramp, solar panels for electricity and collects rainwater to wash off the wheelchairs after they have been used. There are eight wheelchairs and an electric hoist. Volunteers are on-hand to help facilitate wheelchair beach visits.
To book a beach wheelchair or to volunteer for The Beach Wheelchair Project visit www.exmouth.gov.uk/book-a-beach-wheelchair/