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An antidote to social isolation – it’s time to head to the shed

Many older men experience social isolation as they retire. The Halswell Menzshed offers the perfect antidote, providing a safe, welcoming place for them to put their well-honed DIY skills to work, fostering new friendships as a result.

Social isolation and loneliness are recognised as a massive problem in New Zealand as the country’s population continues to get older.

Research has shown that social isolation affects mental and physical health.

Statistics from the Ageing Well National Science Challenge show roughly 10 percent of people over 65 feel lonely most of the time.

Mate-ship and encouragement are words used often to describe what the Halswell Menzshed offers its members.

Manager Roger Spicer says that some attendees are facing a trauma or life transition, and the Menzshed provides a safe, welcoming place for them to work, get involved in a community project, and meet other men.

“We’re involved with the whole man; the spiritual, the mental, the physical.”

“Guys need a place where they can make friends and talk about some of their problems. We say that guys talk shoulder to shoulder rather than face to face, and when they gather around a project, it’s just an ideal opportunity for them to share something that’s going on in their lives.”

For some of the men who attend, coming along to Menzshed is all they need – a place to enjoy a hobby and some company at the same time.   For others, Menzshed is a companionable place to learn new skills that can help them take the next step into paid work.

“We’re so grateful to the Rātā Foundation for funding us over recent years,” Roger says. “It means that we can pay a supervisor; it means we can get on with the job to help the community grow, and it’s just been tremendous what Rātā have done for us.”

The Halswell Menzshed is a Christian-based group, located at St John of God Hospital in Halswell.  The hospital supports adults with physical or neurological impairments. This has influenced the Menzshed to focus on disabled men and men in transition (redundancy, bereavement, retirement, ill health, and rehabilitation). 

Roger says community partnering is an integral part of the Halswell Menzshed.  Their facility is provided by St John of God Hospital and Hauora Trust, while Menzshed does work for them in return.  Roger describes this as “a great partnership.”

St John of God Hauora Trust Regional Manager Health and Ability Services, Virginia Spoors, says, “Halswell MenzShed has been a great asset for our service and the people who live in our care. Since 2015 they’ve supported our service with projects like the implementation of a tunnel house providing fresh vegetables to our kitchen for the benefit of residents.”

Halswell Menzshed has also collaborating with SJOG on the development of a Tiny Home, with MenzShed making substantial contributions towards securing the direct and in-kind fundraising contributions to bring the project to fuition.

Ms Spoors says the project “Will help provide a model which offers more choices for people living with a disability in their aims to live with independence in a community setting.”

MenzShed also recently secured in-kind contributions of ramp matting from Readylawn Christchurch and yard sealing services from Fulton Hogan that has meant residents can now interact more freely with the shed.

“We are seeing residents following their curiosity and engaging with day-to-day activities, broadening their lifestyle options. The value of this increased interaction for residents is immeasurable in terms of self-esteem, feeling connected, and being able to have adult conversations with people that are not paid participants in their care,” she says.

The Menzshed also helps out on projects for schools and not-for-profit organisations.  The lower cost labour options provided by Menzshed meaning the jobs get done, rather than being seen as unaffordable and put to one side.

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans says, “the Menzshed occupies an important niche for older men to connect with one and another and participate in healthy activities that benefit both the mind and the body.”

“We recognise social connections can help reduce isolation and build resilient communities by providing opportunities for people to interact, form relationships and share experiences.”

Roger’s expecting strong future growth in the number of Halswell Menzshed attendees with an aging population and an increasing number of men referred to them by the St John of God Hauora Trust.

To find a shed near you head to or to get in touch with the Halswell Menzshed email

Rātā Foundation provides funding to the Halswell Menzshed under the Connect focus area, supporting people to feel connected to, supported by and involved in their community.