Doug Mackie, founder of Mensheds Manitoba states that many men face loneliness and struggle with depression in retirement and this can easily lead to other serious health concerns.
In response to this issue, Doug got together with some other retired men and brought an idea to Manitoba that he had seen flourishing in Australia and other countries around the world.
According to Mackie, the Men’s Sheds movement began in Australia in the mid 90’s in an effort to improve a number of aspects relating to men’s health and it has since grown to over 900 sheds across that country.
The first Men’s Sheds in the northern climes popped up in Ireland, where the Irish Men’s Sheds Association was established in 2011 to support the development and sustainability of Men’s Sheds in that country.
The Irish Men’s Shed Association describes a Men’s Shed in this manner:
- A Men’s Shed is a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men come together and undertake a variety of mutually agreed activities.
- Men’s Sheds are open to all men regardless of age, background or ability. It is a place where you can share your skills and knowledge with others, learn new skills and develop your old skills.
- New members are always welcome and can be assured that there is something of interest for everyone as the men have ownership of their Shed and projects and decide their own program of events.
- An objective of Men’s Sheds is to enhance or maintain the well-being of the participating men.
Currently there are active Men’s Sheds in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and a variety of other countries including Canada and countries in Europe.
Doug says that the focus and make up of Men’s Sheds varies from shed to shed, but their aim is the same, whether they are mostly focused on just retired men or whether they include men from all age groups.
The original concept of Men’s Sheds was to bring men together in a social setting to enjoy each other’s company, play games, do crafts and participate in short term volunteer projects and the Woodhaven Club of Mensheds Manitoba accomplishes this in spades.
Mackie says that Mensheds Manitoba also shares important health related information with their members by inviting in speakers from Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Mental Health and other organizations. “We have even included a course on using a digital camera and basic photography for our members and their spouses.”
“The Manitoba Menshed was the first of its kind in Canada” stated Mackie proudly, “and we have been very effective in creating a welcoming social environment for our group of retired men.”
In the words of Mackie: “-Many men once they retire become isolated because so many of their social connections revolved around work and this can often lead to depression and other health issues.”
Mackie and his friends including David Friesen, both retired Manitoba businessmen, formed the Manitoba Menshed and operate it on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Woodhaven Community Centre. According to Mackie it is a grassroots organization created for men and peer managed by men. It is based upon the Australian model and is focused on helping senior men to keep busy outside of the house.
Mackie recognized that many retired men in his community had a lot of time on their hands. Says Mackie: “Men have a greater tendency to suffer from isolation, loneliness and depression than women, especially after they retire; however, being productive and contributing to your community are key steps to good health.”
In answer to the question, “What is the main benefit of the Men’s Shed?”, Mackie replied: “Most men don’t have a set schedule after they retire. Their friends are still working and they don’t know what to do with their time. With the Menshed, members know that they can drop by the Woodhaven club any Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon and someone will be there.”
Recently Mackie was speaking to a United Church men’s group in North Kildonan and he asked: “Who here knows what they will be doing at 1pm next Tuesday.” Well you know what? Only one hand went up and that man knew because he had a job and was working on Tuesday. The other 14 had no idea, no plans, no socialization and no objective.
The easy going and talkative Mackie continued, “As a member of the Manitoba Menshed, you can come and have a cup of coffee or tea, chat, and do some crafts like carving or woodburning if you wish or even play a game of cards with the other men.”
It is commonly assumed that men are loners but Mackie says just the opposite is true: “Men like doing things in a group together. Our group for example may be found helping out setting up tables for a gardening club, working a craft table at St Norbert Farmer’s Market or perhaps working on restoring the train station at Ponemah, Manitoba. All our projects are short term volunteer work.The beauty of men’s groups like the Men’s Sheds is that there are no Long term commitments, the group is informal and peer led.”
Mackie and the other members of the Manitoba Shed are currently in search of a 1220 sq. ft. building that can be used to house woodworking equipment so that members will have a shop, a place to work on their projects where they will not be faced with working alone in their basement or garage and having to put away the equipment after each use. It’s a lofty goal and one that has kept Doug and his team very busy.
Currently Mackie is also in regular discussions with men interested in starting a local Men’s Shed in Glace Bay NS, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Kelowna, Surrey, Hope and Vanderhoof BC.
Doug says “the welcome mat is always out at the Manitoba Menshed’s Woodhaven club and age is no barrier. If you live in the Winnipeg area why not drop by the Woodhaven Community Club any Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon and see what we are about. You may just love what you find.”
If you are interested in exploring the Mensheds Manitoba or starting one in your area, check out their website at menshedsmanitoba.ca or find them on Facebook
The writer of this article, Wesley Hazlitt, is a member of the Manitoba Menshed.