Hoarding is fire hazard

Hoarding becomes a problem when objects clutter the home and create a fire hazard.

Dr Brian Yeo, a consultant psychiatrist in private practice at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said that problems could also arise when the hoarder's need to collect becomes his primary need over his other duties.

He said: "It then becomes a compulsive disorder that needs psychological counselling and medication."

Mr Ian Foo, centre manager of the Thye Hua Kwan Seniors Activity Centre at the void deck of Block 3, Telok Blangah Crescent, said several residents in the neighbourhood display hoarding behaviour and most of them are elderly people.

His staff try to reach out to them when they visit the centre for activities.


Said Mr Foo: "We tell the senior citizens that hoarding can be dangerous as they can trip and fall over the things they collect. These items are also fire hazards. But we can only advise them about the dangers.

"The elderly often say: 'These things have sentimental value to us'. My staff and I cannot just pick up their personal belongings and throw them away."

So what should senior citizens do when they encounter emergencies?

Lions Befrienders executive director Goh Boo Han said that if they are trapped alone in a burning flat, they should keep calm.

Mr Goh, whose welfare organisation works with poor elderly folk who live alone, said they could keep a set of spare keys near the front door.

Besides calling 999 for assistance, they can shout for help to alert neighbours.

He stressed that it would be helpful to maintain good relations with neighbours, as they could lend a helping hand and be a source of social support.

"We advise the seniors under our care to keep their main doors open so that neighbours can see them in case anything happens," said Mr Goh.