Activities that provide a sense of connection and belonging as well as activities that support autonomy and identity are critical for people in the early stages of dementia. Participating in Men’s Sheds has been shown to create friendships and enhance self-esteem and sense of purpose in life, but above all else, decrease social isolation.
The ‘Every Bloke needs a Shed’ pilot project was an initiative of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, funded by NSW Department of Human Services for two years, beginning in 2011. The goal of the project was to increase social engagement of socially isolated older men, with a particular focus on men with early-stage dementia and male carers of people with dementia. The project encompassed the Hunter region and involved eight Men’s Sheds.
The ‘Every Bloke needs a Shed’ project focused on:
The stories heard through the evaluation highlight that the project contributed to a sense of belonging and purpose, self-esteem, self-worth and social inclusion for men with dementia. This was achieved by providing: a venue and activity that is flexible and accommodating of their ability; a male setting and the company and friendship of men outside the family; a work-like setting and activities that are meaningful and provide purpose; a setting that normalises them and relegates their dementia to a minor place and a link to being part of and contributing to the broader community.
The evaluation provides evidence of a reduced burden on the spousal or other carers of men with dementia. Access to regular respite, as well as having a contact at Alzheimer’s Australia to assist with questions, all contributed to having a “happier” husband or friend who felt valued and engaged in community life.
The impact of the project extended beyond just the people with dementia and their carers. Other men at the shed gained an increased understanding of dementia and improved their skills in communicating and working with people with dementia. They gained a sense of purpose and worth by helping the men, as well as an ability to identify and assist men with early-stage dementia who were already participating in the Shed.
As a community group, the participating Men’s Sheds in the Hunter have shown what a dementia-friendly social group should look like: welcoming, informed and ready to help.
The Cessnock Men’s Shed has kept me going. Without the shed I don’t know what I would have done, probably curl up and die. Jim (Participant)
I feel like a king in this place…here at the shed I am greeted when I come to work. The guys always say, “Good morning, Reg” and I like that! Reg (Participant)
“Don and the Elermore Vale Shed are perfect fit. Evidently the Men’s Sheds are wonderful things!” Val (Don’s wife)
This article features in Alzheimer’s Australia’s First Steps to a Dementia-Friendly Australia booklet.
Thank you for sharing this experience. I think it's a brilliant innovation. Men, particularly, need to bond with other men doing what they love - mucking around in a "shed". And they also need a break away from their spouse. It's a win/win.