Originating in Australia, the Men’s Sheds movement is building momentum in the UK; where over 500 groups are changing the lives of an estimated 11,000 men through improving their health.
What’s a Men’s Shed?
Men’s Sheds (or Sheds) are similar to garden sheds – a place to pursue practical interests at leisure, to practice 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 and tea.
Sheds are whatever the members (or Shedders as they’re affectionately known) want them to be. Although labelled sheds, they often aren’t sheds at all. They can be empty offices, portable cabins, warehouses, garages, and in at least one case, a disused mortuary.
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 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.
How are Sheds good for your health?
A recent focus on the impact of loneliness has emphasised how it can affect both mental and physical health: increasing the risks of dementia, heart disease and depression. It has been estimated that loneliness and poor social connections can be as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more detrimental to health than obesity.
The UK Men’s Sheds Association, a support and advice charity for Men’s Sheds in the UK, conducted a survey with over 500 Shedders to capture health benefits men expressed they’d benefited through joining a Men’s Shed. The results highlighted men felt they had gained new friendships and increased their happiness, whilst reducing feelings of anxiety and depression.
James, from Forest of Dean Men’s Shed, says “I have made new friends and learnt some great things, it’s probably saved my life, or at least my sanity.”
Megan’s dad is a shedder in Biggin Hill, she says “My Dad suffered a stroke 2 years ago now, and this is where the Men’s Shed stepped in. The Shed is a safe, social place for my dad to go to – he loves going twice a week. It takes the pressure off my mum and has been so beneficial to his health and wellbeing. It’s keeping him busy and healthy.”
Along with positives for individuals and their families, communities benefit from their activities to an estimated volunteering value of £10.5 million. Many Men’s Sheds support their local community, repairing items for individuals, and supporting other groups in a variety of ways, from making play equipment for local pre-schools to planters for care homes. As well as the boost for local communities, 88 per cent of Shedders say they feel more connected to their community through being part of their local Shed. (UKMSA Shedder Survey 2017-2018)
How to get involved
In the UK there are now over 500 open Sheds, with an
estimated 140 in development. To get involved with, or support your nearest
Men’s Shed visit www.findashed.org.uk.
Alternatively contact UK Men’s Sheds on 0300 772 9626 or email [email protected].
If you’d like to learn more about Men’s Sheds, or see how you can set one up in your local community, visit www.menssheds.org.uk.