BY MAYA CHAVVAKULA
The future of Age UK’s Men in Sheds project in Bromley and Greenwich looks uncertain as its main funding source is cut off, and it is hoping the community could make much-needed donations to keep it running.
The programme was sponsored by The National Lottery and it helped elderly men alleviate boredom and loneliness by providing them a place to do woodwork.
Th project was launched in 2010 by DIY expert Tommy Walsh, and was promoted by DJ and broadcaster Chris Evans in 2013.
Fred, 72, a member of the Sheds programme, said: “I have been coming here for a few months.
“I was in the hospital for two years after I had a stroke and needed speech therapy.
“I wanted to do it in a more organic way rather than working with someone every week, so I started looking for groups I could join.
“I was made to feel very welcome from the very beginning.
“I had a problem with my arm as well so I started working in the
gardens where I can interact with a lot to other people in the shed.
“My speech therapist is very happy with my progress. I couldn’t have done it without the help of this community.
“It feels like a family here and it is better than the NHS.”
The idea for ‘Men in Sheds’ was based on an Australian experiment in the 1990s.
The programme soon became so popular that it even spawned a sister project named Women in Sheds, which was also funded by the National Lottery.
Age UK’s survey showed a significant reduction in loneliness among the elderly since the launch of this project.
Age UK’s Bromley and Greenwich’s boss, Mark Ellison, said: “It’s a truly local project doing good locally.
The Sheds are a hive of wood-working, green recycling and DIY activity – a great tonic for everyone involved.
“Our aim is to provide activities to help older men who are known by
researchers to be at great risk of social isolation and loneliness.
“This can put them at severe risk of illness and mental health issues.
“Men have told us time and again that this initiative has been a lifeline and made a huge difference to their health and well-being, especially at key times like post-retirement or following a bereavement.”
The charity is currently running at a reduced capacity while it fundraises to carry the project into the future.
Some of the support staff for the programme were made redundant and it has had to shorten the operating hours to save money.
The charity also runs repair cafes and mobile sheds to help isolated people in sheltered accommodation.
Co-ordinator of Men in Sheds, Colin Denny, said: “This project is truly amazing. Men vote with their feet and come to the workshops every day.
“As pensioners their incomes can be low but they do contribute what they can.
“They also make amazing things like duck houses and wooden bridges for local nature reserves and bird boxes and toys for children that we sell to raise funds at Christmas fairs.
“If you can afford to help out, we would love to hear from you.
“Together we can secure the future of Men in Sheds.”
Any men or women aged over 50 and interested in joining Age UK Bromley and Greenwich’s Men in Sheds or pilot Women in Sheds groups can contact them at 020 8294 3013.
People can make one off or monthly donations towards the project at: https://www.ageuk.org.uk/bromleyandgreenwich/get-involved/donate/