A HEALTH boost for older men has been found in an unconventional source, a report has shown.

Community sheds, such as the Men in Sheds initiative in Hartford, can help to cut loneliness and boost emotional and physical health.

Acting as a social hub, the Age UK sheds encourages reduced isolation, enhanced self-esteem and confidence, skill development and physical activity.

The new Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) study involved men who regularly attend four Age UK Sheds based in Cheshire, their family members and community partners.

Dr Jenny Fisher, senior lecturer in social care at MMU and lead researcher, said: “The number of older adults who live alone in the UK is increasing and while this is of concern for men and women, older men are particularly at risk of being lonely and socially isolated.

"Weak social connections, loneliness and social isolation are linked to poor health and wellbeing, especially for older men.

“We found that men often don’t have the same opportunities for social activities as women or older men are just less likely to join community groups. With the exception of Men in Sheds, there are limited opportunities for men to engage in community-based social activities.

“We also found it took a significant life event or facing a big issue, like retirement, loss of a spouse, or illness to get some older men to join.”

Originating in Australia in 1998, Men’s Sheds is now a global programme that is rapidly growing worldwide.

The study – one of the first of its kind – was commissioned by Age UK Cheshire and conducted by MMU.

One participant in his 60s told researchers: “I noticed guys come to read the paper, have a brew and put the world to rights and that’s it.

"They were here for the companionship and camaraderie. They weren’t here to do stuff or make stuff. There is no requirement.”

For others, the sheds provide an environment to learn new skills and develop their existing woodworking skills with support from the shed co-ordinators and others more experienced in woodwork.

Dr Fisher added that the sheds provide a supportive space that is separate from traditional therapeutic interventions, helping to enhance relationships with other family members too, particularly if they are carers.

Additionally, they help to provide physical activity to cut sedentary lifestyles.

The interdisciplinary study was led by Dr Fisher who worked with colleagues from across the faculty of health, psychology and social care at MMU, including Dr Gillian Yeowell, Sandra Hartley, Dr Emma Koivunen and Prof Rebecca Lawthom.

Dr Fisher said: “For me, this has been a project that has personal meaning as my late father lived alone and was unwell.

"I always wonder about how things may have been different for him if he had become a ‘Shedder’ when he retired over twenty years ago.”