VIDEO

Retired caretaker says: Thank goodness for motorised scooter. All I want from Budget is more cash

THE best thing that's happened to retired school caretaker Angie Ng Sock Cheng in recent years was getting a motorised scooter.

The nifty vehicle has allowed Madam Ng, 76, who lives on her own to go to the market even though it entails crossing a street, visit her friend who lives a few blocks away from her one-room Telok Blangah flat and go out for a meal.

Simple tasks maybe, but they were virtually impossible given the osteoporosis that made it painful for Madam Ng to walk. Even a short stroll would leave her breathless and legs swollen.

The scooter she received in December has changed her life, although it took some hair-raising attempts to master. She eventually realised that it would stop as soon as she took her hands off the wheel.

Now she manoeuvres it easily, though she still sets the speed at the lowest level.

Grinning broadly, she said in Chinese: "I'm so happy with this scooter. They gave it to me free. They are so good to us old folks."

Madam Ng is not alone: About 130 people have received a highly subsidised motorised wheelchair or scooter through the Seniors' Mobility Fund.

The Agency for Integrated Care which manages the fund said recipients of motorised devices were about 70 years old.

Its spokesman said: "Some elderly may be too physically weak to propel manual wheelchairs and need a motorised device."

The Fund was set up in 2011 with $10 million to help poor seniors, aged 60 and older, stay mobile. It was increased to $50 million last year, with more uses and less stringent criteria.

It can be used to help buy mobility aids, provide people with dispensables such as diapers or subsidise them for transport to places such as elder care centres.

About 10 per cent of the money has been disbursed with more than 6,000 people benefitting.

A recipient needs to pay 10 per cent of the cost of a device. An item like a walking stick might set a recipient back by only $1.

Some recipients get more than one item from the fund.

The actual cost of Madam Ng's motorised scooter was $1,412, but because she is on public assistance, her share of the cost was picked up by the Community Development Council.

Madam Ng has two children. Her son suffers from schizophrenia and now resides in a home. She said her CPF money was depleted getting treatment for him. Her daughter is married to an odd-job labourer and they have two children of their own to take care of.

Madam Ng hopes that this year's Budget will see the cash assistance she gets under ComCare increase from $300 to $450 a month.

After paying rent, utility, and conservancy charges, she is left with about $160 a month.

"It's really not enough," she said. This is especially since she now needs to recharge her scooter every few days, and that raises her electricity bill.

salma@sph.com.sg

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