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Men’s Shed keeps people in touch

Written by on 9th March 2021

A social group in Pontypridd is working to combat loneliness during the pandemic by moving its presence online.

The Dewi Sant Men’s Shed, which was launched last year at Dewi Sant Health Park in Pontypridd, is now operating virtually, helping members to keep in touch at a time when many people feel lonely and isolated.

Men’s Sheds’ are social groups set up in local communities for the benefit of people in the area. The Dewi Sant Men’s Shed was set up in September 2019, with the intention of establishing the community group as a way to promote good physical and mental health.

Paul Nagle, Shed Development Officer said: “As I’ve got older myself, I’ve realised the effects of social isolation and loneliness and I think with COVID it’s a bigger problem than ever.  The Shed Movement, which is a low cost facility run by the shed themselves, is a way to help people at risk of loneliness and isolation.

“The main purpose of a men’s shed is for people, men largely, over the age of 50, to meet other men, learn new skills, have fun and just enjoy themselves.

The Dewi Sant Shed started with the initial aim of setting up a gardening project within the grounds of the Dewi Sant Health Park. However, within weeks the pandemic hit and the shed was forced to close

“I thought, well how can we manage to keep in touch”, said Paul, “so we came up with the idea of the shed online. It’s a digital response to supporting shedders in our network. We do online activities such as gardening activities, poetry activities, art, music, and in the last month or so we’ve taken to running zoom meetings.

“The bottom line is that it’s a regular contact every week with people you know which I think helps people with their health and wellbeing and ensures we’re still together to start the shed again once the pandemic allows.”

Dave Edwards is member and secretary of the Dewi Sant Men’s Shed. He said the benefit of the shed comes from keeping busy:

“I’ve worked all of my life since I was 15 so when you retire you’re always looking for that activity. You don’t want to sit around the house all the time, watch telly, you want to get up and do something, and I think the men’s shed gives you that option, to go along and meeting up with people your age and planning activities.

“We have to have that regular contact, the closeness, the cup of coffee, the ability to talk and that has got to be some help to people who live alone and feel lonely. We do it every week and it’s as simple as that. It’s important that it keeps going.”

The Dewi Sant Men’s Shed was the initiative of the Taff Vale Primary Care Cluster, part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board.

Janet Kelland, Primary Care Service Development Manager for Rhondda and Taff Ely Locality added:

“GP practices in the Taff Ely Cluster recognised that people could improve their health and wellbeing through being involved in some activities out in their community.

“They’d heard about something called Men’s Shed and they liked the idea of it because the principal of men’s shed is that they can create more of a sustainable community group and keep those activities going. The key is that people can set up the activities they want, in the way they want to do them.

“Some of the feedback we’ve had to date has been fantastic. People have said they’ve met new friends, improved their physical as well as their mental wellbeing and that the impact on them not feeling so lonely and isolated has been huge.”

The idea for Men’s Sheds’ originated in Australia 11 years ago and was developed by a health board to tackle growing concerns of social isolation amongst their male population in particular.  They identified that high numbers of men had time on their hands, due to retirement, unemployment or illness and this often manifested in boredom, men suffering in silence with declining mental health and in the worst cases suicide.

Members of each individual shed decide activities that take place according to the skills and interests of the group. Activities might include art, amateur radio, model making or DIY

Despite its name, the Men’s Shed at Dewi Sant is open to anyone, male or female, over the age of 18.