Public Health Initiative in Australia, Ireland and UK help to relieve Social Isolation in Retired Men by Providing Public Shed Space.
It’s said garden sheds are the Englishman’s castle: a place where he is master of his domain, a place to escape his lady Macbeth. However, for the last few years it seems that sheds have started becoming a somewhat of a mascot for men’s health initiatives.
The State of Men’s Health in Europe published in 2011 by the European Commission has highlighted deficient policy concerning the treatment of male patients in EU countries. The findings show working men between the ages of 15-64 have a 210% incidence of premature morbidity than women of the same demographic. They find that European public health initiatives that benefit men’s health are inconsistent at best, and that working men underutilize the health services as compared with women. Basically, there is a marked difference in mortality from preventable diseases in men and women. Additionally, men have a much more difficult time accessing mental health services than women.
The Men’s Shed movement started in Australia as a grass roots community outreach programme targeting retired men suffering the loss of social interaction otherwise provided by employment. The Australian Men’s Shed Association was later founded in 2007 as a resource and governance centre for the growing number of these community sheds across Australia. The AMSA now acts as both governing body for shed initiatives as well as a centralised source for information for those interested in starting their own communal sheds. The realization came some years after the organization’s inception that these Sheds acted as resource for public health, helping address the disparity between men and women’s engagement with health care.
The AMSA acts as an advocacy group from men’s health issues centring principally on social isolation that contributes heavily to public health issues including substance abuse, depression, and anxiety especially in retirees. The AMSA is the largest men’s support organisation in Australia, boasting a membership of over 45,000. Those interested in starting their own shed can request a 91 page manual free from the AMSA that includes information, advice as well as introductions to other Men’s Sheds associated with the AMSA.
As an extension, www.theshedonline.org.au is an online social community oriented toward men’s health issues founded by beyondblue: the national depression initiative, The Movember Foundation along with the AMSA.
Late November of 2010, the Irish Men’s Sheds Association was launched. Having been inspired by the AMSA, their aims are similar in that they seek to engage the skills of retired men while providing a setting for socializing.
Age UK has taken this idea of shed-based, grass-roots advocacy for older men and started its own initiative in September 2011. The pilot programme, called Men in Sheds, has similar aims in helping remedy social isolation while raising awareness about men’s health issues. Right now the programme will run until April of 2012 and is being managed locally all over the UK.