Community mediator learnt neighbour who dragged furniture at 3am was dying of cancer
Community mediator Steven Yeo shared his experience of a neighbour who dragged furniture at 3am, to argue for tolerance, during a discussion on unacceptable noise in a dense city like Singapore.
Mr Yeo, 63, who lives in a Housing Board block in Tampines North, said he would sometimes be roused from sleep by the noise his elderly neighbour, who lived above him, made.
This happened about five years ago.
"He invited me to dinner one day and that's when I learnt that he had cancer.
"The pain would occasionally become so great that he would have to drag a chair," said Mr Yeo, a grassroots leader.
Sympathetic to his neighbour's medical condition, Mr Yeo decided to bear with the noise. It stopped when the man died.
Mr Yeo was among 53 participants, aged 20 to above 70 years old, who spoke at the eighth focus group discussion on Saturday (Aug 13). It was held at the Ministry of National Development building in Maxwell Road.
Around eight in 10 of those who participated live in HDB flats.
Their feedback will help shape new national guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable neighbourhood noise levels. The guidelines will be ready by the end of this year.
Mr Yeo, who has been a community mediator for about six years, said many people are afraid of sharing their noise concerns with neighbours for fear of offending them.
"When raising concerns, it is important to acknowledge and consider others' circumstances in order to amicably resolve them," he added.
A community advisory panel was formed in April this year to tackle unacceptable neighbourhood noise from residents as well as outdoor spaces such as basketball courts and coffee shops.
It is chaired by the Singapore Kindness Movement's general secretary, Dr William Wan, and comprises nine representatives from the social and people sectors and academia.
The panel is assisted by the Municipal Services Office (MSO) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Among the recommendations the panel is exploring is adjusting the current quiet hours of 10.30pm to 7am.
Mr Yuen Chee Onn, who also took part in the discussion on Saturday, is hoping for quiet hours - when residents are advised to keep noise levels down - to start at 10pm.
The 62-year-old said that for the past 14 years, he has had to put up with noise from funeral wakes held at least once a month near his block in Toa Payoh.
"After working the whole day, there has to be some time at home when you can unwind without closing the window to shut out the noise," added Mr Yuen, who is the head of engagement and outreach at the Centre for Fathering.
He said he bought noise-cancelling earphones to watch television in peace.
Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and National Development Sim Ann, who attended the discussions on Saturday, said there has been an increase in feedback related to neighbourhood noise over the past two years.
It comes as many have been working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Across the municipal issues managed by the Government, neighbourhood noise is one of the most challenging issues that my colleagues in MSO and relevant agencies face on the ground," she said.
Ms Sim added that in a dense living environment like Singapore, experiencing some form of noise in the neighbourhood would not be unusual.
But she noted that residents who prefer quiet time may be less tolerant of activities such as big families playing mahjong late at night.
To date, more than 1,300 people have responded to an online survey on noise, while 280 have shared their views at focus group discussions held since May 28.
Ensuring quiet hours is one of the common themes surfaced at these discussions, Ms Sim said.
"What this means is that activities such as social gatherings, celebrations, playing of games that create noise really should be restricted during these hours," she added.