Men’s Sheds that keep older men healthier and happier for longer, are opening across the UK at a rate of three a week. The UK Men’s Sheds Association (UKMSA) has another reason to celebrate its third birthday – the opening of the 300th Shed in Corsham, Wiltshire.
With an ageing population, increased loneliness and its serious impact on mental and physical health, and an increasingly stretched National Health Service, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Men’s Sheds movement is growing so dramatically.
Mike Jenn, UKMSA Chair and founder of Camden Town Men’s Shed, is clear about what’s behind the spread of Men’s Sheds “The movement has come of age. The phenomenal growth over the past three years is in large part because it’s bottom up – rooted in communities – it’s the Shedders who make it happen. That said, UKMSA supports the development of new Sheds and promotes learning between sheds across the network.”
At life-changing moments – bereavement, divorce, family moving away – older men can feel disconnected and disoriented. This is particularly important when identity has revolved around paid employment with a uniform, if only a business suit. Retirement or unemployment can mean that men lose not only their status, but their support networks and the sense of purpose associated with work. Men’s Sheds are about relationships, creating new communities of interest, more than communities of place.
There is no typical Shed – each develops around the specific interest of the men involved. Few are actually housed in sheds – facilities range from rooms in community centres, to sports pavilions and one has brought life to a disused mortuary. Some have no facilities or use a garage while they find alternative space.
Men’s Sheds are places for informal learning, swapping ideas and sharing personal health and relationship concerns. Sitting round tables and sipping tea, Shedders across the UK are making history – challenging traditional definitions of what it means to be a ‘real man’ with conversations not heard in pubs, clubs and sports events.
To find your nearest Shed, go to http://menssheds.org.uk/find-a-shed. If there isn’t one nearby, the UKMSA and partners Royal Voluntary Service can help you set one up.
Welcome to Men’s Sheds – find out more at www.menssheds.org.uk
What Shedders say…
‘My spare time was going to waste. Your day goes much quicker when you have nothing to do. Here you meet new people and you get advice or tuition from others. Now I get up in the morning with something to achieve.
I enjoy it when I’m doing something positive.’
‘Fixing, making and reusing materials…. improved my mental state and gave me hope.’
‘It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and for two days a week I feel I’m gainfully employed.’
‘I feel a sense of worth and love the way all the men work together’
‘When you make something which is of use to someone else there is a great sense of satisfaction’
‘Coming to the Shed has given me a feeling of self-worth and increased my confidence’
‘It’s very relaxed, you can do anything here, use all the facilities. There’s kind and caring people.’
‘It’s wonderful here – I just wish I could have done it thirty years ago’ Harry aged 91
‘Coming here is better than any medicine’
‘I have my own shed but I like coming here because they challenge me to do better. When you are on your own you can let standards slip, but here they tell you if it’s not good enough.’