Men’s Sheds in Wendover
My article is based on my own personal experience, why I joined Men’s Sheds and what I hope to achieve in Wendover. I’ve used some text direct from the Men’s Sheds website (www.menssheds.org.uk). Bob Duggan
I’ve always enjoyed learning new skills but it was only when I was looking at what I was going to do following my retirement from procurement in the NHS, that I thought about setting up my own business making toys and ornaments for the Christmas market that the idea of running a business was first born. I employed a colleague who was skilled particularly on the IT side of things. Shortly after Adam arrived we invested in a laser machine. The difference in working on my own compared to working with others was noticeable. As a man I had also been conscious of the difficulties I had had with my own mental health. The fix I got by working with someone who had a shared objective was tremendous.
Wendover is a comparatively well off area! With my NHS experience and volunteering with both the Ambulance service and those people suffering from the effects of Dementia, I realised that the community could and should be doing a lot more to help those in need via self help methods. Men are useless sometimes at admitting to problems – especially health problems. My work in the community as a volunteer and as a previous Chair of the local Parish Council spurred me in to action and I became a member of Men’s sheds. There are Men’s sheds north of Aylesbury and at Amersham but nothing in Wendover.
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.
Sheds are whatever the members (or Shedders as we call them) want them to be. Although labelled sheds, they often aren’t sheds at all. They can be empty offices, portable cabin’s, warehouses, garages, and in at least one case, a disused mortuary. Some Sheds are purpose built workshops, but they rarely start out that way. Many don’t have premises at all in the beginning and instead form a group that meets regularly for the social connection, company and camaraderie until they can find somewhere to kit out with tools. 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.
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, fewer 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 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.
My mission is simple! To get a small group together – so far there is me, the Minister of the local Free Church, a local Countryside gentlemen’s group. We will meet in the New Year with a view to obtaining support from the local community, the organisation of Men’s Sheds itself to set up a Men’s Shed in Wendover
Men’s Sheds are vital.