“Did you know that one of the highest rates of completed suicide in Canada are men 67 and older?” Doug Mackie, chair of Mensheds Manitoba Inc. and the Canadian Men’s Shed Association, says.
Eight years ago, Mackie brought together the first group of men at the St. James Assiniboia 55+ Senior Centre and from there established the first Men’s Sheds in Canada. A “shed” is a gathering of men meant to engage them in social and creative activities.
“At age 68 and with lots of energy, I realized the potential of such an activity, especially for retired men,” Mackie says. “We formed the Mensheds Manitoba Inc. non-profit organization in December 2010. We opened our doors at the Woodhaven Community Club (200 Glendale Blvd.) in January 2011.”
Mackie says the reception of Men’s Sheds was gradual and required time in the community until the need for the shed was realized.
Now, the Woodhaven shed has about 50 members, accompanied by 13 sheds in Canada and about 1,800 worldwide, Mackie says.
“Our shed seems to stay at about 50 members. Some men pass away each year, some move on, but men know we are there every Tuesday and Wednesday,” Mackie says. “Men’s Sheds has no staff, no set program and no funding. Each individual shed decides upon their own programs and activities.”
Some of those activities include socializing over cribbage, cards, coffee and walks around Woodhaven Park on Tuesdays. Wednesday mornings are reserved for breakfast at the local Veterans’ Club on Portage Avenue. In the afternoon, the men partake in woodcarving, crafts and work on stained glass.
“We also offer ‘health by stealth’ … presenters come and talk about diets, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and much more,” Mackie says. “This is done in a friendly convivial atmosphere where men and their spouses can easily ask questions.”
Joel Segal heard about Men’s Sheds through a friend. He has been involved for three years and is now a board member of Mensheds Manitoba Inc.
“I wanted to meet local woodcarvers” Segal says. “I showed up that first time and was greeted as an old friend. It felt good.”
Segal says his favourite activities are woodcarving and teaching the trade to other Men’s Sheds participants. Though Segal doesn’t suffer from any mental health issues or loneliness, he says the program has helped others with these issues.
“Just talking to someone their own age seems to help some of them come out of their shells,” Segal says. “Some of the things that they talk about are the same ones that others in the shed have gone through. Being there with peers and not in any structured environment seems to help.”