FROM woodworking and bike repairs to gardening and beekeeping – The Shed project in Tameside offers everything and more that you would expect from its name.
But most of importantly of all, it offers company and support to a section of the community which is becoming increasingly susceptible to loneliness and social isolation.
The Men in Sheds programme has developed to provide support to men who have experienced mental health issues, problems with the transition to retirement or a lack of social interaction.
In Tameside, The Shed opened at Loxley House, Dukinfield, three years ago and has gone from strength to strength – now supporting over 50 members. As part of Dementia Awareness Week 15-21 May and Mental Health Awareness Week 16-22 May, both support by Tameside Council, the project will be encouraging more people to get involved.
Mike Barlow, from Tameside AgeUK, who runs the project with the support of volunteers, said: “More men are living longer into old age than ever before but they can become very socially isolated. Men communicate better shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face and this project gives them an opportunity to spend time with others in a practical environment where they can pursue interests and learn new skills.
“I think it’s fair to say that for a lot of our shedders, the only other regular social interaction they get outside this project is speaking to a shop assistant when they buy their groceries.
“This project provides an environment for them to enjoy friendship, learn skills and feel useful - it has a very positive impact on their wellbeing and quality of life.”
As well as the normal activities you might expect to find in a workshop, The Shed also offers computers, family history research, a walking club and even walking football. It’s most recent development is to open its doors to women on a Friday and it is constantly adding to the activities on offer.
“Basically we want to be able to help anyone who feels they could benefit from the social interaction and activities,” said Mike.
Widower Ivor Williams, 85, from Denton, told how he started visiting The Shed two years ago after suffering a mild heart attack.
He said: “My wife had died six months earlier and I had no social life to speak of. The hospital staff referred me to AgeUK, who gave me a leaflet about the Shed and I have been coming along twice a week ever since.”
Ivor, who used to be a keen cyclist and a mechanic at Manchester Velodrome, passes most of his time at the Shed repairing and restoring bikes that have been donated ready to sell on to raise more funds for the project.
“It has been just brilliant. I would otherwise be alone at home but I’ve made friends – we all entertain and help eachother. A also feel more useful and better about myself.”
Another regular shedder is 32-year-old Luke Nelson, from Dukinfield, who sustained a brain injury in a motorcycle accident when he was 16.
He got involved in the Shed through Tameside Mind and enjoys being involved in the gardening activities as well as helping out his fellow shedders.
He said: “This place has saved my life. It has made me more confident and a stronger and better person. We all look out for eachother and see eachother as friends. I really enjoy it.”