Living life without barriers

ON NOVEMBER 23 Ms Liu, 75 and her husband, Mr Wang, 86, stood up on the stage to receive an award. They won first place in the Championship Program, awarding Victorian Chinese Seniors who make a positive contribution to their community.

Mr Wang proudly takes his wife’s hand and leads her to the microphone. Ms Liu is blind, but knows there is a big crowd watching because she can hear the clapping and cheering. She clears her throat and sings a song in Mandarin – there are not the right words to describe how they are feeling.

Behind Mr Wang and Ms Liu’s gracious smiles, there is a story of tragedy, triumph and hope.

Ms Liu and Mr Wang migrated to Australia 18 and 24 years ago respectively. Mr Wang's first wife passed away in 1985. He has a son and a daughter. Ms Liu has two daughters.

Ms Liu’s vision declined over a number of years, until she could no longer see anything. After breaking her back on a holiday in China in 2009, Ms Liu and Mr Wang realised that they needed assistance in their home.

The biggest barrier for the couple was finding a provider who spoke their language and understood their needs and culture.

Since being introduced to lifeAssist, and their Consultant, Rebecca, they haven’t looked back.

“(lifeAssist) is very helpful. Things that I and my husband can't do, they help. It reduces the pressure and stress in our life, as well as reduce some trouble from our children because they are all busy in their life,” Ms Liu said.

Mr Wang has his own health concerns. Daily he manages osteoporosis and spinal degeneration. He provides a lot of practical support to Ms Liu, and she inspires him with her resilience, creativity and faith.

The couple love their independence, but know they still need assistance. They have found a good balance between getting assistance when needed, and doing the tasks they can and want to do.

“Although I am her carer and I can help, there are lots of things I cannot do because I am elderly too… If there is anything we can't do on our own we can seek support from lifeAssist,” Mr Wang said.

“lifeAssist are not just providing service to us, they really do care for us. It's very good. We appreciate it,” said Mr Wang.

In 2014, tragedy struck. Ms Liu was diagnosed with bladder cancer just one year after having surgery to put in a pacemaker. In an eight hour operation, her bladder, and other organs, were removed.

Although the recovery was long and difficult, the couple didn’t give up.

“With the help and encouragement from lifeAssist I recovered gradually and started to do things again. It is also the grace from God and my faith in God, that I can hold on in my life,” Ms Liu said.

Faith is very important to the couple. They catch the bus to church every Sunday, only using their taxi vouchers when bad health or bad weather strikes.

It would seem that nothing can slow the two down. From church, the couple take public transport to meet with their choir group. The couple also attend a seniors club and a day activity group weekly – traveling there mostly by public transport.

Ms Liu was a founding member of the Jasmine Senior Dance group, and Mr Wang was the president of the Boroondara Chinese Senior Citizens Association. They both resigned from their positions after Ms Liu’s sight was completely lost, but still continue to participate in their community.

As the two travel around together, Mr Wang describes the scenery to his wife.

“She may see more than other people do because she uses her heart and imagination, not her eyes,” Mr Wang said.

Watch more of their story on our YouTube channel.