GEORGE TOWN: Two senior citizens in wheelchairs have no problems going about their daily routine in the heritage enclave here as they have each other to depend on.
Ng Kew, 78, gets help from 69-year-old Lim Chin Boh to move around the city.
In unusual coordinated action, the two get around in their wheelchairs facing each other with an elastic cord linking them. Lim then tows Ng’s wheelchair by moving backward using his bare foot.
Despite welfare authorities trying their best to get both into an old folks home, the two prefer the “freedom on the streets”.
Lim said he used to pilot barges at the port bringing in sugar from Prai and lost his mobility after being involved in a hit-and-run accident last year.
“I couldn’t walk without hip surgery that cost RM4,000. But I received a wheelchair to move around, ” he added.
Lim said he has known Ng, who used to wash dishes in restaurants, for several years.
“She recently fell from her bicycle and fractured her leg. Like me, she has to rely on a wheelchair and because she is weaker, I help her to get around, ” said Lim.
The duo can be seen almost daily around Beach Street here.
Lim said they are both homeless and sleep along five-foot ways in Weld Quay.
“All our belongings are kept in plastic bags hung on our wheelchairs.”
But their “free” life is not without dangers.
In November last year, a robber tried to mug Lim in broad daylight in China Street Ghaut here. The incident was recorded by a security camera and the footage went viral.
In the footage, a man in an orange shirt was seen talking to Lim before he suddenly tried to grab a bag slung around Lim’s shoulder.
Someone went to Lim’s aid, forcing the robber to flee – without the bag – on a motorcycle ridden by an accomplice.
George Town OCPD Asst Comm Soffian Santong confirmed that Lim was the victim and said both suspects have been charged under Section 394 of the Penal Code for causing hurt while committing a robbery.
Ng, too, was not spared, revealing that she lost most of her belongings last month.
“A man came and offered to push me on the wheelchair.
“Instead, he snatched my bag, which contained my personal identification document, mobile phone and about RM200, ” she said.
Pengkalan Kota assemblyman Daniel Gooi said his team got to know about the pair’s risky lives after Lim’s accident in August last year, adding that they had tried many ways to help them.
“They are each receiving RM500 a month from the Penang Welfare Department.
“We found them places at an old folks home but they’re not keen to move in.
“As they are not a married couple, it will be against the rules to house them in the same room and they are not eligible to take up an entire unit.
“We are still working on getting them a suitable place, ” he said.
Gooi added that the area’s Village Community Management Council members constantly check on Lim and Ng to see how they are doing.