The Barmera Men’s Shed has been a mainstay in the community for many years. (ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)
Social distancing measures have led to the closure of more than 1,100 men’s sheds across Australia, but efforts are being made to keep “shedders” connected.
- Men’s sheds provide important mental health support for many in regional communities, but the coronavirus has forced them to close
- The association plans to roll out an online platform to keep members in touch during the shutdown
- According to a 2019 survey, men — particularly older men — report higher levels of loneliness than women
The Australian Men’s Shed Association had no choice but to shut its operations down after the Federal Government’s announcements, executive officer David Helmers said.
But before the lockdown protocols were imposed the association came up with the idea of starting a web-based platform to allow men to keep in touch.
“We’re calling it the ‘Shed Online’ and we are doing that in partnership with the Irish and the American Men’s Shed Associations as well,” Mr Helmers said.
“That’s going to be an online forum where they can engage and talk to each other.
“Basically it is going to be like Facebook for men’s shedders.”
Shed centre of regional communities
Men’s sheds can be found in several towns in South Australia’s Riverland region.
At Waikerie, the local men’s shed is operational two days a week, but president Bob Kemp said it is frequented by some members nearly every day.
“For a lot of them, it’s their life,” he said.
“Some of us go up there every day just to have a cup of coffee and just to say hello and then come home again.
“That’s apart from Tuesdays and Thursdays when we are there for four or five hours, so I think most of the men look forward to it, and also I’ll mention that some of the wives look forward to it too.
“It gives them a bit of a break away from one another for a while.”
About 50 kilometres down the road, the Barmera Men’s Shed is also an important space, particularly for older men in the community.
Friendships have been built at men’s sheds across the nation. (ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)
Coordinator John Hughes said since Barmera’s doors closed his members had been keeping a close eye on each other.
“We know there are people who may suffer from different things, such as depression, and we’ve been following up with some of those people and at least keeping in contact and making sure they are OK,” Mr Hughes said.
What the experts are saying about coronavirus:
“I myself get messages from guys to say ‘I’m all OK over here’ and things like that.
“people are still contacting one another and letting one another know what’s going on.”
‘It’s about saving lives’
According to a 2019 study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, men tend to report higher levels of loneliness than women.
Additionally, people aged 75 years and above age experience loneliness at the highest rates.
Men’s sheds across regional Australia are important places for people to come together. (ABC Riverland: Catherine Heuzenroeder)
These figures explain the men’s shed boom, Mr Helmers says.
Your questions on coronavirus answered:
“Today, you can go into any men’s shed around Australia, or the world, and ask what is the men’s shed primarily about, and they’ll all say ‘it is saving their lives,'” he said.
“In those little country towns they become real hubs of the community, they are a real social gathering place and not just for men, but their extended families.
“These are difficult times and we’ve heard all along, nobody could’ve planned for this, and we’ve just got to try and deal with it the best we can.”
You can find more information on the Australian Men’s Shed’s ‘Shed Online’ initiative here.