With men's physical and mental wellbeing currently in the spotlight—thanks to Men’s Health Week, which ran from 11 to 17 June—it's important to acknowledge the impact of peer support for issues like social isolation and depression.
“Men don’t talk face to face; they talk shoulder to shoulder,” said Gary Green, Community Engagement Manager for the Australian Men’s Shed Association.
This motto is at the heart of the Men’s Shed phenomenon, which encourages men to socialise and talk while working with their hands in a safe and purpose‑driven environment.
“Men like the company of other men and for those who have retired from work, are unwell, unemployed, or home with kids, it can sometimes be hard,” Gary said.
Retired men in particular are prone to isolation, which is often linked to the loss of a spouse or to a decrease in the social opportunities afforded by full–time work.
“Women are great at maintaining friendships whereas men often seem to need a reason to gather together,” Gary said.
There are over 950 community‑run Men’s Sheds across Australia and many of RetireAustralia’s 27 villages have followed suit, featuring fully equipped workshops for residents’ use.
There is no expectation that members have prior knowledge of how to use the tools or equipment and mentoring is a large part of the appeal.
“Lots of blokes who attend have had little or no past experience with tools and they might learn from other blokes or they might choose to sip on a tea or coffee and solve the world’s problems or just help out the others,” Gary said.
“Men love sharing and teaching skills they have and sheds provide a male–friendly way of doing this.”
The impact on men’s health is immense.
Over the years, the workshops in RetireAustralia’s villages have seen hundreds of residents form lasting bonds and even use their time and skills for the greater good.
For almost two decades, a group of residents at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Village have met regularly in the village workshop to catch up, have a laugh and build toys for charity.
Resident Ernie Nankivell estimates that the group sends out around 600 handcrafted trucks, trains and rocking horses each year and believes that having a strong purpose behind their meetings keeps the members coming back week after week.
“We all really enjoy it,” he says. “It gives us something to do!”
Find a RetireAustralia community with a workshop at retireaustralia.com.au/communities.