Men’s Shed hopes to expand throughout the county

·5 min read

Pembroke – Darrel O’Shaughnessy is a senior and a man with a vision to help other men – seniors and younger men – find a purpose, find companionship and create something meaningful and lasting through the Men’s Shed project.

“It may be only a shed, but to guys like me it is a sanctuary,” he said at Renfrew County council recently.

He was providing an overview of the Arnprior and McNab Braeside Men’s Shed Program, which is part of a global movement and the fastest growing Men’s Shed in Canada. Described as a social healthcare innovation, it provides fellowship, activity, a sense of purpose and community for senior men and other men who may be out of work, new to the community and in need of forming new relationships, he said.

“Senior men want to share their life knowledge and experience that has made them wiser, more thoughtful and, yes, more realistic,” he said. “We have the capacity to deliver.”

The Men’s Shed is just that – a place for men to gather in a shed, create a community, work with tools and create beautiful things which would be of use to others. Men’s Sheds help senior men lead healthy active lives and stay connected with their communities. It is about companionship and fun, he said.

“It has been a life-changing experience for me personally,” he said. “There is a particular need to tackle social isolation in men.”

Senior men are less likely to have strong social networks and have difficultly sharing feelings with family members, he said. As a result they face higher risk of mortality due to social isolation, he said. However, working together, this is part of creating an age-friendly community.

Men come and go depending on life circumstance and the time of year, but there are usually about 51 men at any given time involved in the local project. There are retired tradesmen, teachers, labourers, engineers, farmers and businessmen involved.

“We are the fastest growing Men’s Shed in Canada,” he added. “We started out with five men.”

At the Arnprior and McNab/Braeside Men’s Shed they build a variety of things like bird and bat houses, raised flower boxes, wheelchair accessible picnic tables, woodeb toys, lending libraires and other items.

He said the local project is very fortunate to be associated with Arnprior Regional Health and receives funding for rent, materials, equipment, supplies and services from Arnprior and McNab/Braeside, as well as obtaining grants.

The Men’s Shed project, which has been in existence for less than 20 years, is considered a social health care innovation and part of forming an age-friendly community, he said.

“It supports healthy aging and aging in place,” he remarked.

Founded in Australia in 2007, there are now over 1,000 Men’s Sheds around the world. The first one in Canada was started in 2011 in Winnipeg.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy said this offers men “a place to hangout, tinker, connect, find a listening ear, tell stories – some true -- socialize and be accepted for who they are.”

The project recognizes senior men have a wide range of skills and abilities and integrates seniors in the life of the community, he said.

“It gives senior men a chance to give back and share,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.

While initially the Men’s Shed in Arnprior and McNab/Braeside was for men who were over 55 and considered seniors, that has expanded.

“We now take men much younger,” he said. “They are depressed, they are lonely and unemployed.

“We find companionship and we have fun and we do it all together,” he said.

There are now 51 Men Shed’s in Canada and they provide a shared version of a home workshop, he explained.

Expanding Men’s Sheds

In coming to the county, he wanted to share more information about the project and encourage the development of more Men’s Sheds in other parts of the county.

“Help us promote and establish new Men’s Sheds throughout the County of Renfrew,” he said.

He noted challenges for establishing new Men’s Sheds include affordable space, rent, utilities, liability insurances, supplies, transportation costs and marketing/sales. However, he provided tips, including establishing strong relationships in the communities and promoting this as a social health care innovation.

From the response of the county councillors, it was clear many agreed this would be a positive thing for their communities.

“Part of our strategic plan is always the health of our community,” noted Warden Peter Emon.

He said the county invited Mr. O’Shaughnessy so all councillors could be more familiar with the project and the opportunities it provides.

Laurentian Hills Mayor Anne Giardini said she was very interested in the project for her community.

“Your bat houses, I know CNL uses a lot of bat houses on their property so that may be a source of a client there,” she said.

As well, she asked if they could promote the Men’s Sheds at upcoming area health fairs. He said he would be delighted to do so.

McNab/Braeside Mayor Mark Mackenzie said it is a pleasure to see the hope of Men’s Sheds being extended across the county. He suggested when the Operations Committee comes to McNab/Braeside for an upcoming meeting they could have a tour of the facility.

Whitewater Region Mayor Neil Nicholson said the Men’s Shed project in the Arnprior area is recognized for its work in helping men and the community. He pointed out the Arnprior area is recognized as an age friendly community in part because of the Men’s Shed and Mr. O’Shaughnessy is being recognized as well.

“The support Arnprior and McNab/Braeside provide their seniors is a model we need to replicate, not just in our centres where we have cities but in our rural populations,” he said.

The mayor said he would support Renfrew County looking at an age-friendly plan and support.

“You are doing more than you realize,” Mayor Nicholson said.

Mr. O’Shaughnessy was recognized in January for his involvement as a volunteer in the community and with the Men’s Shed with the Warden’s Community Service Volunteer Award for an individual. He moved to Arnprior14 years ago and became involved in many projects including the Dragon Boat club and the Men’s Sheds project.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader