Men's Shed helps to bring older men out of shadow of loneliness in Dauphin, Man.

There are plenty of things for the members of Parkland Men’s Sheds to do —woodworking, cooking, tinkering and fixing — but there’s more to the club than just keeping busy.

'The essence of this program is to build self worth and comradeship'

A couple dozen retired men meet at the Parkland Men's Shed chapter every week to socialize and work on projects. (Submitted by Parkland Men's Shed)

There are plenty of things for the members of Parkland Men's Sheds to do — woodworking, cooking, tinkering and fixing — but there's more to the club than just keeping busy.

It's as much about socializing as anything else, says club founder Bill Farley.

"Human beings have two basic needs — one is the need to love and be loved, and the other is the need to feel worthwhile and to be seen as being worthwhile," said Farley, who started the club for retired men after hearing about the international organization last fall.

"A lot of fellas, when they retire, most of their self-worth and their association has come from the workplace. When they retire and they haven't planned anything, there they are, sitting at home.

"After a while, gardening gets a little tiring so their worth goes down."

Men's Sheds are helping people find community. (Men's Shed/Website)

Men's Sheds started in Australia in 2007 as an experiment — an attempt to deal with a growing health crisis. Older men, prone to isolation, despair and depression, have a very high suicide rate. 

Today there are more than 2,000 chapters around the world, with dozens set up here in Canada.

All of the Canadian clubs can trace their lineage to Winnipegger Doug Mackie, who started the country's first chapter out of a Woodhaven community centre in 2011.

"With Men's Sheds we are looking at mainly people who are retired and that's the last third of their life and many men are not prepared for what they are going to do in the last third of their life," Mackie told CBC News in 2016.

"Within Men's Sheds they come out and we don't care who you were, we care where they are today."

Winnipegger Doug Mackie started the country's first Men's Shed chapter out of a Woodhaven community centre in 2011. (David Gutnick/CBC)

It was an interview Farley heard with Mackie on CBC Radio in that inspired him to act.

"Right away I thought, they're talking about me," Farley recalled.

"I'm 86 now, I'm a widower, my kids and grand kids are all living in the States and in Dauphin there's a lot of older fellers that are sitting in their apartments looking out the window.

"I started off for selfish reasons, for myself, but it's certainly turned out a lot different than that."

'It's one big happy family'

At first Farley said he didn't know what to expect. Before the club's first meeting he advertised in the community and began to worry when he didn't hear from any interested members.

But 35 men showed up to the first meeting.

"Of course, typical old guys, we all sat around with our arms folded and said nothing," Farley laughs of that first meeting, adding the mood quickly changed as everyone started to talk. 

"Now, it's like there's no mercy in there now — it's one big happy family."

The group meets once a week with about 25 steady members.

And the work they're doing is starting to get a reputation around town, with calls pouring in from other organizations looking to include the club in their activities, Farley said.

Men's sheds are billed as a tool to combat loneliness. (Aliza Latta/CBC)

The members are currently working on building a cat shelter for Dauphin's humane society.

"What this has done for me and the fellas that are coming out every week, is given us a sense of worth again — giving back to the community — sharing their skills," he said.

"We're going to be known around town as the old guys that do things and fix things.

"But, you know, the essence of this program is to build self worth and comradeship and it seems to be working."

More information on the Parkland Men's Shed check can be found at the group's website.

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