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Stair climbers restoring seniors' mobility

By Kathy Zhang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-05-21 09:24

Mak, an operator (back), lifts a stair climber and helps Ng Lai-kuen (center), 90, to visit her husband's grave on a hillside. KATHY ZHANG/CHINA DAILY

Virtual prisoners

The pilot program helps seniors and disabled people who are unable to navigate narrow staircases and have become virtual prisoners in their own homes.

Ho Wai-ching, an 83-year-old wheelchair user, has been isolated at home after she had a stroke more than seven years ago and then injured herself in a fall.

The stairs between her building's lobby and the front door have even prevented her from going outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

She has only left her home two or three times a year for medical checkups and emergencies.

"Carrying her to exit and enter the building is a big project," said Lau Shun-yee, Ho's husband, noting that three to five adults were required to help carry the senior and her wheelchair up and down stairs.

The stair climber pilot project has made a big change for Ho. She can now get out of her apartment in about five minutes, whereas in the past it took 15 minutes to get her down 10 stairs and out of the door. Only one person is needed to operate the stair climber.

"It is so convenient that she is able to go out once a week, even some - times for family gatherings in restaurants," Lau said.

Hong Kong has more than 10,000 tenement buildings like the one in which Ho lives, but few have elevators, which makes it extremely difficult for seniors to get around.

Stair climbers can save the day when elevators stop working due to breakdowns or even a Signal 8 typhoon.

Emily Leung Hoi-yan, chief officer (Elderly Service) of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service - the institution in charge of coordination works for the pilot project - has noticed significant changes since the stair climbers became available.

"The program allows the seniors to become more engaged in social activities and outdoor events," she said. "They are shining again."

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