Men are not exactly renowned for sharing their feelings or opening up emotionally.

Decades worth of stigmatism and social expectations have seen generations of male Australians forgo the opportunity to talk about problems, and opt for silence instead.

While notions like this might seem outdated in this day and age, sadly they are still far too prominent, and even though attitudes are changing, nowhere is this problem more prevalent than in elderly males.

Believe it or not, men over the age of 85 have the highest suicide rate in Australia, and these deaths are not all the result of men who were dealing with mental illness. This tragedy targets the everyday men who feel worthless and undervalued by a society they once played a significant part in.

Social isolation is a massive problem in the aged care industry, and while this problem is definitely not exclusive to men, males are more likely to isolate themselves as a result of not wanting to talk.

The idea of organised Men’s Shed’s started in Australia in the late 1990s as a way to promote conversation and the sharing of emotions between men, as a way to improve male mental health.

Since then, men’s sheds have begun to sprout all across the globe, offering countless men of different backgrounds the chance to share in the comradery and sense of purpose that playing a role in a group can bring.

While there are a number of different types of Men’s Shed’s, the majority of meetings occur in a location where attendees meet and share experiences, but the Forster Tuncurry Men’s Shed in NSW, and a number of aged care facilities in the local area are working together to bring some of their activities and principles into the homes of elderly males living in aged care.

“At present in nursing homes there are a lot of programs for women, but not a lot for men,” Forster Tuncurry Men’s Shed treasurer, Shaun Coyne, said.

“It’s a sad truth, but a lot of men in nursing homes are waiting to die. This is a way of awakening their minds. They feel useful again.”

Estia Health, in Tuncurry, is one of the aged care facilities that have seen amazing benefits from the Men’s Shed program, and the number of participants has grown steadily from 3 to 43 in only a short span of five months.

Generally speaking, Men’s Shed’s have always revolved around mateship, and the idea that males are more prone to communicate in a productive environment, which is typified by the Men’s Shed slogan “Men don’t talk face to face, they talk shoulder to shoulder.”

This collaboration between the Tuncurry Men’s Shed and local nursing homes has focused around woodworking and crafting, and the residents involved in the program have been supplied with recycled timber, tools and workshop assistance.

And according to reports, many of the residents have proven themselves to be extremely handy.

While woodworking and craft activities proved extremely popular, the program has future plans to focus on improving the social media skills of participants as a way to increase connectivity with loved ones and the outside world.  

Despite being in its early stages, the Men’s Shed program has proven itself to be extremely beneficial, with staff from Estia remarking that they have seen a remarkable improvement to the participants mental health and physical wellbeing.

Unsurprisingly, the Tuncurry Men’s Shed staff have been inundated with calls from other nursing homes who think that this type of collaboration is a great idea, and the next step in this initiative will involve ensuring men from other aged care facilities can access the same activities.
Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Advocate

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