Noisy daycare reduces retiree to tears

By Chantal Eustace

SASKATOON - A retired schoolteacher says she's a nervous wreck after months of listening to her tiny-tot neighbours attending a daycare. Ruth McCague says she can no longer take the endless shrieks, yelps and laughter of the youngsters who play at the daycare next door. While a fence separates McCague's house from the Preston Avenue Daycare, the two lots are worlds apart in noise tolerance. "I wake up in the morning and say: 'Oh my God I have to listen to this all day," said McCague, 62.

Her complaint may seem unusual - the sound of children playing isn't listed in Saskatoon's noise bylaw - but she says the racket has become unbearable. Her complaint against her wee neighbours points to an urban issue that may become more pronounced with time. McCague is one of a growing number of retirees, many who want nothing but a little peace and quiet, colliding with another demographic trend - increased demand for daycare services.

In a report released in 1999, Statistics Canada found the domestic consumer market for childcare was worth more than $3.5 billion, and from 1986 to 1996, the number of licensed daycares in Canada doubled.

At the same time, more people are heading into retirement. In 2001, there were an estimated four million individuals ages 65 and older in Canada - an increase of more than 50 per cent from 1981.

McCague moved to Saskatoon four years ago from Toronto to care for her 94-year-old father and to relax. She says the noise never bothered her until this spring, when her neighbours switched to four scheduled outdoor sessions from two. "I've never seen this circus anywhere," said McCague, who adds she has heart pains from this stress and describes herself as a "nervous wreck".

But the daycare is not violating any bylaws and the children only get a few months of warm weather each year to play outside, says Lisa Leibel, director of Preston Avenue Daycare. The facility provides care for 36 children from 18 months to preschool age. Saskatoon police community relations officer Dave McLellan hopes to organise a meeting between the daycare and its neighbours. "Clearing up neighbourhood disputes takes up some time," he says.

- Times-Colonist

Noise pollution

Ahh... city life. It's hustling and bustling, with nary a dull moment. Amenities are at your fingertips. With its entertainment options, fancy restaurants, great-paying jobs, fast cars, the city is a literal smorgasbord of action and distraction.

Now, for the downside. One trade-in for all this excitement is the vast increase in auxiliary noise. When was the last time you heard a bird chirp? Certainly a difficult thing to do while a big TransLink bus is whipping by. Planes, helicopters, jackhammers and other construction site noise, constant traffic, lawnmowers and power tools, sirens, loud music, inconsiderate neighbours... it's all there to add to the "pollution" we endure.

Four years ago in Toronto, (as published in a National Post article) experts sat down to analyse the cost to society of excessive noise. Dr. Sheela Basrur, Toronto's medical officer of health, addressed the issue with the city government's various branches.

Dr. Basrur revealed that the population of the Greater Toronto Area was expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years and there were strong indications that the city was getting noisier. "The downtown area is becoming known as a centre for music festivals on city streets, parks and public areas. This increase in public leisure activities will likely add to the noise levels in the city," Dr. Basrur noted. The same principles can be applied to other cities.

Dr. Basrur pointed out that another cause for concern is low frequency noise from vehicles, aircraft, industrial machinery, wind turbines, compressors, and indoor ventilation and air conditioning units. Her report concluded that prolonged exposure to these types of sounds can and does have detrimental effects on health.

Dr. Basrur warned that, inevitably, "excessive noise can induce or aggravate stress-related health issues, affecting the cardiovascular system, immune system, sleep, task performance, behaviour and overall mental health."

The Health Edition - The Vancouver Courier

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2005
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