ORIGINS OF MENS SHEDS
Men’s Sheds are non-profit organisations that originated in Australia, to advise and improve the overall health of all males. The roots of the Men's Sheds movement have been traced back to the 1980's with work in Broken Hill, New South Wales, amongst former miners and Vietnam veterans. In Australian culture, there was little encouragement for men of all ages to socialize and discuss their feelings and wellbeing. They normally operate at a local level in the community, promoting social interaction with the aim of increasing the quality of life. There are over 900 sheds located across Australia, with thousands of active members. Men's Sheds can also be found in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, United States, Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Greece.
The slogan for Men’s Sheds is "Shoulder To Shoulder", shortened from "Men don't talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder", adopted after the 2008 Australian Men's Shed Association (AMSA) conference. The users of Men's Sheds are known as "Shedders".
The term “Men's Sheds” originated from the shed in a backyard scenario, where a man would go and carry out tasks, such as restoring furniture or fixing lawn mowers.
Men's Sheds have been described as a male-friendly service providing a 'health by stealth' approach. Research acknowledges the positive role that Sheds can have in "addressing the gendered health disparity that males face" because men have worse health outcomes across all age groups than females in most Western countries.
What is a Men’s Shed?
Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) are similar to garden sheds – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practise skills and enjoy making and mending. The difference is that garden sheds and their activities are often solitary in nature while Men’s Sheds are the opposite; they’re about social connections and friendship building, sharing skills and knowledge, and of course a lot of laughter.
Sheds are whatever the members (Shedders) want them to be. Although labelled sheds, they often aren’t sheds at all. They can be empty offices, Portakabins, warehouses, garages or in our case an unused school workshop. Many Sheds get involved in community projects too – restoring village features, helping maintain parks and green spaces, and building things for schools, libraries and individuals in need.
Activities in Sheds vary greatly, but you can usually find woodworking, metalworking, repairing and restoring, electronics, model buildings or even car building in a typical Shed. Sheds typically attract older men, but many, like us, have younger members and women too. Whatever the activity, the essence of a Shed is not a building, but the connections and relationships between its members.
Why are they needed?
For a long time research has shown the negative impact of loneliness and isolation on a person’s health and wellbeing. Recently we have seen more evidence come to light that shows loneliness and isolation can be as hazardous to our health as obesity and excessive smoking. Surveys from mental health charities are finding that millions of people report feeling lonely on a daily basis.
Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women and unlike women of a similar age, less older men have networks of friends and rarely share personal concerns about health and personal worries. It is not the case for all men, but for some, when retirement comes, it can feel like personal identity and purpose is lost. Men’s Sheds can change all of that.
Sheds are about meeting like-minded people and having someone to share your worries with. They are about having fun, sharing skills and knowledge with like-minded people and gaining a renewed sense of purpose and belonging. As a by-product of all of that they reduce isolation and feelings of loneliness, they allow men to deal with mental health challenges more easily and remain independent, they rebuild communities and in many cases, they save men’s lives.
Here is a video (43 mins long)
that explores the philosophy
of how society in general and
men in particular can derive
great benefit from the Men
In Sheds movement.
WHAT MAKES A TYPICAL SHEDDER?
It takes all sorts to make a Repair Shed member, but a typical member is likely to be a man aged 50+, with a practical mind and an interest in mending, making and learning. Ideally they will have relatively low support needs but maybe are getting over personal difficulties – associated with work or family relationships maybe – and looking for a friendly set-up to do so. We welcome members who can put in at least as much as they get out. You do not need to be an ‘expert’ in anything, but we expect you to be reasonably practically minded and interested in doing things with your hands.
Often SHEDDERS are termed NIPPERS – older men who are either Not In Permanent Paid Employment or Retired.
We are often asked “can women join”? The primary social purpose of the Repair Shed is to keep older men healthier and happier for longer and our activities are intended to further this aim. It’s important that men feel comfortable and able to talk about issues, including their personal health which they might not in a mixed group. That said, membership of our Repair Shed is not exclusively male and we currently have 4 women members.
Community Action Dacorum, 48 High Street, Hemel Hempstead, Herts, HP1 3AF
Telephone: 01442 253935
Registered Charity No: 288080 – Company Ltd by Guarantee 01745852