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For disabled young man, old folks' home is where the heart is

His situation is unusual but Ahmad Zahrin Anas is happy where he is.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
4 minute read
Ahmad Zahrin Anas sits with the other residents of Rumah Qaseh Ayah, an old folks' home in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
Ahmad Zahrin Anas sits with the other residents of Rumah Qaseh Ayah, an old folks' home in Sungai Petani, Kedah.

Growing up with divorced parents, Ahmad Zahrin Anas experienced his share of uncertainty and was eventually thrown out of the house due to family problems. 

Today, at 31, he has finally found a measure of peace and stability and can count on having a roof over his head – at an old folks' home in Sungai Petani, Kedah. 

When he was in Form Five, Zahrin, who goes by the nickname Anas, was involved in a car accident which caused him to lose his left leg. 

His parents had, by then, long since split up. Anas was taken in by his grandfather, who did what he could to raise him in their stead. 

In 2017, though, his grandfather passed away and Anas was left to fend for himself.

He went to stay with his mother, but did not feel comfortable there.  

Not knowing what else to do, he asked for help from the welfare department, which placed him at the old folk's home. 

But while living with residents more than twice his age might appear strange to some, Anas is happy to be there. 

"I like it here," he told MalaysiaNow during a visit at Rumah Qaseh Ayah. 

"I can learn and help the uncles who live here. There are many things for me to do." 

Ahmad Zahrin Anas rides his motorcycle through the rain to get to his work place at a clothing boutique in town. 

Nearly every day, he rides his three-wheeled motorcycle to Sungai Petani town to help out at a clothing boutique which operates in tandem with the nursing home management. 

It takes him almost 40 minutes to get there as he moves at a slower pace than normal motorcycles. 

Sometimes, he also runs errands for the supervisors and wardens who ask him to help pick up kitchen items and daily necessities at the nearby grocery store. 

Anas himself is glad to do whatever he can and is happy in the knowledge that he, too, can contribute to his society. 

'Do better'

Speaking to MalaysiaNow as heavy rain pounded the roof overhead, Anas said he still planned to head out to the store even though he had been advised to wait until the storm passed. 

On Fridays, he said, the store closed early and come afternoon, he would be busy at the boutique.

Words of praise from the warden brought only a shy smile to his face. 

While the help he provides now is much appreciated, he is aware of his physical limitations.

Having made do without one of his legs for nearly half his life, he also weighs a hefty 140kg. 

He has tried for many years to lose weight, but cannot seem to shed the pounds despite following a number of diet techniques. 

A new wheelchair would give him better mobility, and he would like to undergo bariatric surgery to help him slim down.

If he manages to lose weight, he will be able to move about with a prosthetic leg which would allow him to do more around the home. 

"Right now, I use a wheelchair to get about, including to take my bath," he said. "But it's starting to creak a lot."

Ahmad Zahrin Anas and another resident examine his remaining leg, which is swollen far beyond the normal size.  

When asked about the biggest change in his life after entering the old folks' home, Anas recalled his first day there. 

At that point, he said, his mind was still in a frenzy and he had no clue what to expect from his new life. 

"I couldn't think of anything," he said. "The welfare department told me that this was a home for senior citizens, and I didn't know anybody there."

But after a while, he settled down and became accustomed to living with "the uncles". 

"I like to tease them now," he added. 

'A bright spot'

Akmat Milaham, a 66-year-old from Sabah, was one of the first to welcome Anas to the home upon the young man's arrival. 

Looking back on the years that had since passed, he said Anas had become a bright spot in many of the residents' lives. 

"Anas helps us a lot, even by collecting our medication for us from the hospital and clinic," he said.  

"He also helps us in other ways. I always ask him about my phone, how to use WhatsApp, how to call my siblings in Sabah. He always shows me how." 

Anas himself has dreams like any young man of finding a job and earning a steady income.

But he is also open to the idea of remaining at the home to help the residents. 

His status as a special needs person makes it difficult for him to find work and make enough to rent a place of his own. 

"That's why I want to undergo that surgery," he said, referring to the bariatric procedure. 

"If I were thinner, I could use a prosthesis and do more to help out around the home." 

He is also worried about his remaining leg, which is swollen far beyond any normal size. 

"People tell me it's elephantiasis," he said. "But the doctors have not confirmed anything."

While he went for a check-up a year or so ago, the doctors were only able to take a urine and blood sample. 

"The hospital was full because of the Covid-19 pandemic," he said. "And with the road blocks due to the movement control order, I wasn't able to go back to the hospital after that." 

For now, he hopes to be able to get his leg looked at again for a proper diagnosis. 

"I hope the doctors can do something to help me," he said.