The state of older men’s health is a greatly overlooked public health challenge. The reluctance of older men to engage with services and activities; high rates of social isolation and loneliness; and a tendency for men to engage in more risky health behaviours, combine to make older men vulnerable to physical and mental ill-health. Older men also find it harder than women to make friends late in life, and are less likely to join community-based social groups that tend to be dominated by women. In the absence of a co-ordinated response from statutory services to the needs of older men, a range of interventions have been developed by the third sector.
Findings from an SPHR-funded research project have recently been published on the Age UK website. A team, led by Christine Milligan and Chris Dowrick from the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool (LiLaC) and York undertook a systematic review and scoping aimed at assessing the evidence for the effectiveness of Men in Sheds and other social activity initiatives for older men.
Men in Sheds is an innovation originating in Australia but rapidly growing across the UK and elsewhere. The scheme provides hands-on activities for older men who are co-participants in a defined space. Importantly, Sheds provide a space where older men can meet, socialise, learn new skills and take part in activities with other men.
Evidence from the review suggests that gendered interventions provide a safe space for older men to participate in purposeful physical activities on a voluntary basis. In particular, the findings indicate that Men’s Sheds and other gendered interventions provide an array of benefits for older men including: learning new skills; sharing knowledge; a sense of purpose and personal achievement; the opportunity to meet and interact with others and the alleviation of social isolation. Sheds can also signpost older men to other health and welfare services.
However, to date, the evidence is limited – more robust longitudinal studies on the health and wellbeing impacts of gendered interventions for older men are needed.
Click here to view the report on the Age UK website.