Meath 'men's shed' project provides new social outlet

 

THE BOND between men and their sheds will be exploited in a project to be launched in Co Meath today.

The “Men’s Shed” project provides a meeting place for older men to come together and enjoy activities such as woodwork, metalwork, photography, card playing, darts and bowls.

The idea is the brainchild of Mary Nally of the Third Age Centre in Summerhill, which founded the Senior Help Line.

She noticed how her husband loved to disappear into his shed and thought it would be an ideal way of bringing older men together.

After she began researching the idea, she discovered that Australia has a successful “men’s shed” movement.

In Britain, Age Concern Cheshire has also started what it calls “shed therapy”. Its website says a shed is to a man what a handbag is to a woman.

“Both contain all the essentials for surviving in the modern world.”

The Meath project has the support of veteran broadcaster Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh, who will officially launch the project in the Summerhill community centre today.

Ms Nally said the number of social outlets for men had declined as marts closed and drink-driving laws were changed. If they weren’t involved in the GAA or played golf, older men had few excuses to leave their homes.

“We wanted to create a space just for men, where they could do whatever they want,” she said. Earlier this month, the first “men’s sheds” gatherings began at the Summerhill community centre and the steam threshing museum in Moynalty.

To date, the men have chosen to play cards, draughts and bowling, read newspapers or just have a chat over a cup of tea. Mini-buses collect them and drop them home afterwards.

Pearse Bolger from Kilmessan said the Monday gathering in Summerhill was a perfect start to his week.

He is visually impaired and uses a guide dog. He loves to walk but can’t do this in Kilmessan as the country roads are too dangerous for him.

“Now when I’m picked up on Monday and brought to Summerhill I go for a three-mile walk to Dangan and back. Then I have a cup of tea at the centre.”

While he can’t play cards or bowl, he enjoys a game of draughts. “It has given me a great lease of of life,” he said.

Mr Bolger said he had nothing but praise for the women behind the project and his only wish was that the men’s shed would open for more than one day a week.

Ms Nally said she would like to see the idea expanded and taken up around the country.

The Meath Partnership has supported the project and it is funded by Age and Opportunity.

She said the Senior Help Line received daily calls from older men who were leading very lonely lives. “We feel this project with an all-male environment, with the opportunity for friendship, learning, skills exchange, chat and reminiscence is one that has been long needed.”