October 29, 2022 — The sad fact is, many men don’t do so well in retirement. After a lifetime of working, the loss of purpose can lead to depression and inactivity. So when our guide in Scotland last month started telling us about the Shed movement, and the Shedders who use them, we got pretty excited. “The Shed What?”, we said. Then, as she told us how men’s sheds have been proliferating in the British Isles because of the enjoyment, as well as improvement to their mental and social health, they provide to retired men (mostly) and women. The movement seems to have a lot of potential here in the U.S. Here is what the Shed movement is all about.
Men’s sheds or community sheds are non-profit local organizations that provide a space for craftwork and social interaction. Think of it in some ways as a YMCA for retirees, without the gym. Precursors to the movement originated in Australia around the 1980s as a way to improve the health and wellbeing of older men. Since then many sheds have expanded to anyone regardless of age or gender, with similar aims and functions to hackerspaces. There are over 900 shed located across Australia, with thousands of active members. Men’s sheds can also be found in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, United States, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, and Greece. Objectives of Men’s Sheds include advancing the health and well-being of the participating men and creating opportunities for the men to contribute to their local communities.
The slogan for men’s sheds is “Shoulder To Shoulder”, shortened from “Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder”. Maxine Chaseling is generally credited with the first shed, in Goolwa, South Australia in 1993. Chaseling had worked in aged services for many years, and was an expert in gerontology, men’s health, and the lack of services for men. She originally came up with the idea of a men’s shed after her own father had become depressed and felt stuck at home after having a heart attack and not being able to work anymore. She noticed that the only thing that seemed to give her father purpose was to work in his shed.
As recent as last week at least one wife posted a comment lamenting the fact that her husband just sits around the house since he retired. The shed movement is ideal for getting them into activities and off the couch, engaging in things that also provide beneficial social interaction.
Sheds can be defined into five main categories. These categories are work, clinical, educational, recreational and communal. Sheds can have their own unique aims, and focus on a whatever subject(s) they decide upon. We took a look at some sheds around the world and found an amazing variety of programs. Some are all about mechanical or woodworking, others are more educational, e.g.; teaching kids how to take apart or repair an automobile or some other device.
This is a description of what one Scottish shed has for programs:
We still run computer classes at the shed on Tuesday afternoons. We have a large poly tunnel and a big greenhouse. The greenhouse is a great place where we take on flowers etc. Poly tunnel is used mostly for salad type veg through the season. Welding shed is now complete. Still have kitchen for budding cooks out there. We do a lot of woodwork as well in the shed, all manner of things wood turning, pen making, you name it we give it a try.
Here is from another:
Mostly woodworking and tool refurbishment at present. Building Picnic Benches, Planters & Bird Boxes. Restoring Garden Benches. Working with the local disability group on personal projects.
And one more:
Well equipped workshop for wood and metal working, electronics bay, PC and Printer/Copier, 3D Printing, CNC Routing, “O” gauge model railway layout and much more.
Several countries have started organizations to promote the shed movement. There is one in the U.S., but so far progress is limited with sheds started in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Hawaii. In many ways sheds are similar to the workshops available in many active adult communities, which provide an outlet for people (most often men) to bond together over various projects.
How to get started
Chances are there is not a shed already started near you. Fortunately, there are national Shed associations to help. Chances are there are like-minded people who live near you who would like the opportunity to share a garage or shed and work on projects together.