IT has become almost cliché - the image of an older man, finding solace in his shed. But new research has found that community spaces for men, Men’s Sheds, can boost attendees’ emotional and physical health - and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Men’s Sheds is a global organisation that originated in Australia in 1998. There are now hundreds of groups across the UK, with many in Yorkshire, including in Harrogate, York, Hull, Barnsley and Sheffield.
New analysis of Age UK Sheds in Cheshire by Manchester Metropolitan University has found the groups have a variety of benefits, including reducing isolation, enhancing self-esteem and confidence, and the chance to engage in physical activity.
The ‘sheds’ are community spaces - not always of the wooden kind you would find in the garden - where men can come to socialise by taking part in recreational activities, learning new skills, like woodworking, or even just attending for food, drink and a conversation.
Lead researcher, Dr Jenny Fisher, said: “The number of older adults who live alone in the UK is increasing and while this is of concern for men and women, older men are particularly at risk of being lonely and socially isolated. Weak social connections, loneliness and social isolation are linked to poor health and wellbeing, especially for older men.
“We found that men often don’t have the same opportunities for social activities as women or older men are just less likely to join community groups. With the exception of Men in Sheds, there are limited opportunities for men to engage in community-based social activities.”
Dr Fisher added that the Sheds provide a supportive space that is separate from traditional therapeutic interventions, helping to enhance relationships with other family members too.
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to raise awareness of the issue of loneliness, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, since 2014.