According to Age UK, loneliness in those aged 50 and over is set to hit over 2 million people by 2026.

To challenge the growing isolation, Age UK set up Men in Sheds, a woodworking workshop for older men to come together, meet new people and create pieces of art.

“When I moved to Nottingham, my wife said I had to meet people because i knew nobody”

Graham Shorten, volunteer, daybrook men in sheds

The world’s first men’s shed was established in 1988 in Tongala, Australia, but many other parts of the world quickly embraced it.

A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered socially isolated due to factors such as living alone and losing family or friends.

Graham Shorten, a volunteer with Men in Sheds, says, “When I moved to Nottingham, my wife said I had to meet people because I knew nobody, so she found Men in Sheds for me.”

Men in Sheds, Daybrook. Image credit – Age UK

Art has been found to have enormous benefits for older people; according to The Baring Foundation, the arts create a “look forward to” moment in the week and help foster new friendships.

Brian Walsh (pictured in the main image) says, “I enjoy meeting the people that come; we have a cup of coffee and natter and put the world to rights.”

Headphone holders, created by volunteer Graham Shorten.

For many of the volunteers, the workshop provides a sense of nostalgia. Graham recalls his fondness for woodworking at school and knew he wanted to return to it.

Men in Sheds offers a variety of projects, ranging from fixing broken furniture to crafting gifts for family and friends.

The organisation has three sheds in Nottingham, located in Blidworth, Daybrook and Worksop. However, like many other businesses and organisations, it faced harsh closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “it was definitely missed”, says shed coordinator Hannah Lobley, “the shed gives the volunteers somewhere to go with a purpose.”

Audio: Hannah Lobley outlines the loneliness often faced in retirement.

After re-opening properly in 2021, Age UK decided to expand further. They now offer mixed sessions for men and women at their Daybrook shed every Thursday 9 am – 3.30 pm.

Click here to donate to Age UK and support their research.

Before the pandemic, around 1 in 12 aged 50 and over in England were lonely, equivalent to around 1.4 million people. Many who were isolated from Covid-19 have found it difficult to return to everyday, normal living.

Research after the first lockdown has found that:

  • Two in five people feel less confident going to the shops.
  • Two in three people are less confident using public transport.
  • Nearly half of people feel less confident going to a hospital appointment.

Source: Age UK