Originating in Australia in the mid-1990s men’s sheds have provided a communal space for older men to meet, socialise, learn new skills, and take part in practical activities with other men. They have also engaged men in informal adult learning activities, provided health-related information and referred men onto relevant services to promote their health and well-being. There are approximately 1,000 men’s sheds operating in Australia with over 50,000 men attending on a regular basis. The movement is also spreading in the UK, New Zealand, and Ireland.
What we did
Healthy Cities Illawarra has been operating a men’s shed in Wollongong since 2005. The shed caters for four broad groups of men; a multicultural group, a Middle Eastern group, a homeless group and a refugee group. The goal of the shed is to build up and enhance the men’s sense of self-esteem and levels of social support, increase their sense of purpose and community connectedness, develop and refine their practical skills and to connect them into community projects and activities in which they can actively participate. CHSD developed an evaluation framework for the project leaders to use to enable them to gain an understanding of the participants’ experiences. The framework employs a modified Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology and evaluation methods included: interviews (Baseline, mid-point and project end), coordinators diaries, discussion groups, men’s journals, photography, feedback sheets and evaluation ‘tokens’.
Evaluation results over the years have continued to demonstrate improvements in a variety of social determinants of health such as self-esteem and social connectedness. We have also been able to demonstrate a perceived improvement in the men’s overall health status. The men have also learned new skills, they have socialised with each other outside the organised group meetings and some have reported an improvement in their mental health status. The evaluation was also able to demonstrate a positive improvement in the measurement of the men’s community participation and capacity.
These results were published in the Journal of Men’s Health in 2010 in what we believe to be the first published research that attempts to measure health and well-being outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse men involved in a men’s shed.
Men’s shed participants making the frame for a maiolica table.