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‘Woodworking Shed’ Combats Loneliness in Men

Across the world, men are learning that the easiest way to cure a bout of social isolation is not by talking face-to-face, but shoulder-to-shoulder.

When Phillip Jackson moved back to England from Australia, he was 67, and immediately felt like a stray dog in his native town of Barnsley. He realized that many of those in town at his age had their own problems with social isolation. So, he launched a Barnsley UK chapter of an Australian community movement called “Men’s Shed,” which has expanded across the world, and includes more than 50,000 men.

Capitalizing on most men’s appreciation of woodworking, a Men’s Shed is essentially a support group for men with not enough friends or too much time on their hands. The original concept was to get together and make things out of wood. But in reality, it’s about plugging into the social fabric of a community, whether that’s building a park bench, or listening to the problems someone is going through in their marriage.

Jackson said, “It’s like the shed at the bottom of your garden. But all your friends are there. It’s a break from people’s weekly routines. It gets them out and talking to similar people.” 70-year-old Mike Jenn is a member of a United States Men’s Shed. He said, “We have this kind of male pride thing. I can look after myself. I don’t need to talk to anyone, and it’s a complete fallacy. Not communicating helps to kill us.”

The age range of “Shedders” as Jackson calls them, tends to vary from 22 to 87, which makes sense because anyone can feel lonely at times. He adds that the members come from all walks of life—ex-coalminers to shopkeepers.

Not only can Men’s Sheds be a great place for learning and laughing, they can literally save lives, as loneliness has been shown to shave years off of one’s life, elderly or young.

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