Phil Johnson has started the very first Men’s Shed in Minnesota. At ChangeX we were inspired by his enthusiasm and the many ideas he brought up of how to spread this idea further. Thanks Phil for driving new ideas in your community and for writing this beautiful post about your first weeks of setting up the Men’s Shed!
Research done around the globe tells us that when men retire and grow older, many of them can begin to suffer from loneliness, isolation and depression.
Statistics show that men suffer from these in greater proportion than women. Many men seem to find ourselves more isolated after retirement.
My journey to discovering the Men’s Shed
I retired in 2014 from software development and have worked on many of those, “after I retire” type of activities around the house and doing volunteering work. I enjoyed these, but after a year or two of doing this, I was looking for some new, but useful, community activities that I could do with other men.
While searching online, I found an international movement of local men’s clubs that are specifically designed to do this, a world-wide movement, called Men’s Sheds, set up locally for small groups of men. There are nearly 1000 of them in Australia, more than 300 in Ireland but only very few so far in the US.
It appeared that it was an international confederation for men to join locally to meet, talk and work together on non-profit activities.
The motto of the Men’s Shed is that “men don’t talk face to face they talk shoulder to shoulder,” while using skills that many of them have. These could include home repair, woodworking, gardening, painting, making furniture or toys. Working primarily out of “work shop” type of facilities where you can do these activities.
The idea just made perfect sense to me
I could picture it right away for men here in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area. And starting a new Men’s Shed here sounded like fun to me.
It also made me think of my father, who had struggled with loneliness, isolation and melancholily after he retired, for the last 20 years of his life. While he had some retired friends and acquaintances, none of these men lived nearby, or had a place to gather, like a Men’s Shed would have provided.
I couldn’t help my father at the time. I’m hopeful, though, that through the new Men’s Shed in Hopkins, I can now help other men who find themselves in a similar situation. I’m excited to take this on.
Setting up to get going quickly
For our Shed, we partnered with a Senior Center who used their mailing lists and other materials to publicize our Shed and to provide a place to hold an Open House as our first meeting on a Thursday afternoon in the Activity Center within a couple of weeks.
Twelve men came along and together we determined that we wanted to move more quickly through the Men’s Shed Movement five-step Start-Up Process (link to guide), so that we can start to work on the things we care about.
Here are some of the choices we made to accomplish this:
- We partnered with a local Seniors Activity Center to provide us free space to meet up to four days a week.
- We have chosen community-service for be our Sheds activities. By doing this, we will not have to purchase facility or liability insurance, which can be a sizable expense.
- The Center knew how to get in touch with the kind of people I was looking for. They had an existing network of around 100 men over the age of 55. They quickly reached out to these men and let them know about the Men’s Shed idea.
- The partnership gave us an easy, central place to meet. We did have to promise we wouldn’t use power tools!
- Staff at the Center were able to connect us to volunteer opportunities that were a good fit for our group, such as adopt the park adjacent to the Center, committing to keeping it clean and well maintained.
For anyone who thinks about doing something like starting a Men’s Shed in their community, my advice would be to avoid getting lost in the administrative work. Finding a venue, figuring out insurance, or trying to raise money aren’t as energizing as just diving in! Start by just getting a few men together to talk about the idea. Begin with something that doesn’t need a venue or insurance.
We will develop more ideas for our Men’s Shed as we go. I can easily envision more groups across the Twin Cities coming together to form a Men’s Shed, and we’d be glad to help make that happen. This is all an experiment, and I’m happy to give it a try.