Supporting older men

486. Mike Jenn

A Camden man founded the UK Men’s Sheds Association which has supported creating social spaces for over 5000 older men to work on DIY projects.

Mike Jenn set up the first community Men’s Shed in the UK in 2011, as a place for retired older men to make new friends and share the tools and resources they need to work on individual and community projects. Mike then went onto set up the Association, which raises awareness and offers practical support for others interested in setting up Men’s Sheds. Using an interactive online map, anyone can find a Shed open near them to start getting involved. Along with his associates, Mike has so far helped 262 Sheds to open across the UK serving 5,240 members, with a further 97 Sheds currently in development.

Mike initially heard about Men’s Sheds from his son who lives in Australia, where there are nearly 1,000 shed groups in existence. Just before he was about to retire in April 2011, Mike decided to bring community Men’s Sheds to the UK as a way to adjust to this transitional period in his life, where some people find themselves missing the role and community of their workplace.

A Shed’s activities usually involve making or mending in wood, but may also include metalwork, gardening and electronics, among other pursuits. While all members will work on individual projects, most “shedders” also reach out to their local community to offer help. This ranges from building disability ramps for people in wheelchairs, to constructing a mobile archery target in the shape of a castle for a disabled archery group. Above all, Mike sees UK Men’s Sheds as friendly and inclusive places where men can come together around practical tasks to achieve a sense of purpose, achievement and social interaction, all of which impact positively on our health.

The Shed concept was first developed in England by Age Concern Cheshire at Hartford in 2009. About 12% of Sheds in England have also been started by Age UK. However, Mike founded the first independent user-led Shed in Camden in 2011, as a way to improve health primarily in older men. Through the Association, Mike also provides guides for people setting up and running a shed including finding and converting a property, health and safety and insurance.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“By setting up the UK Men’s Sheds Association, Mike has inspired and supported hundreds of people to set up sheds in their communities. As a result thousands of people now have a place to go for companionship and a chance to undertake projects that interest them in a supported environment. I am very pleased to recognise Mike’s service by making him the UK’s 486th Point of Light.”

Mike said:

“There are dangers in retirement. I can’t recommend enough giving yourself a challenge, as big as you can manage. If you see something you want to achieve, particularly where it benefits other people too, you’ll be invigorating yourself as well as them. We older people are younger than we used to be and can have plenty of spare capacity. With help, I have encouraged men to get together and create facilities for the community and many have taken that challenge and worked hard to realise their dream. Most of these facilities have been created by such groups and they can be as proud of what they have achieved for themselves and their communities as I am to receive this recognition. Seeing the guys in the Sheds making, mending, learning and sharing is our true reward for all the effort.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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