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In the company of men: "sheddies" enjoy good health

June 08, 2017 at 4:07 PM

*From the Community Waitakere Noticeboard*

According to urban myth, blokes just want to retreat into solitary ‘man caves’ or backyard sheds. But new research on the growing popularity of community sheds reveals older men relish the chance to collaborate over projects and socialise – and by doing so their health is benefiting.

“Men might discuss the results of cancer diagnoses and other health issues, the rugby, or arrival of a new grandchild whilst undertaking practical projects, from woodwork to computer programming,” says Dr David Anstiss, who graduated last week with a PhD in psychology from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Massey University’s Auckland campus.

Making, fixing and building things in a shared shed are a backdrop for making new friendships that can help men navigate a significant life change. This companionship fostered through shared activity can bolster mental and physical health, helping protect men from depression, loss of identity, loneliness, and even suicide, Dr Anstiss says.

‘Sheddies’ also gain satisfaction from contributing to their communities through projects they get involved in. Some wish their working lives had featured more camaraderie than cutthroat competition.

Dr Anstiss spent several months in the company of ‘sheddies’– retirees of the Men’s Shed North Shore, one of over 30 such community spaces in New Zealand where men share their passion for fixing and making things, as well as passing on their skills and knowledge. They find companionship in what amounts to a “blurring of labour and leisure.”

His research highlights the value of the Men’s Shed movement in helping participants to stay physically and mentally well through supporting each other at a time when they often struggle to find purpose and meaning after adult lives centred on being the family breadwinner.

He hopes his research will demonstrate how men can relate to each other in positive ways that don’t fit the traditional narrative – of men as closed off, emotionally stunted beings. There is a dearth of research on “men’s need and ability to create spaces for care and positive social relationships,” he says.

Men’s Shed philosophy:

Sheds do not treat men like clients, customers, or patients. They do not treat age as a deficit; there is no ageism. Sheds are a place where older men can rekindle their passion for life, where they can take advantage of opportunities, where they can make friends and share their experiences and where, ultimately, they can be happy (Men's Shed North Shore, 2013)

Click here to read Dr Anstiss's thesis



Category: Research