Location: Exeter

About: Age UK Exeter’s Men in Sheds scheme was set up to offer a facility for men aged over 50 to meet for a few hours a week in the familiar environment of a shed or workshop. The men come together to socialise over refurbishing and renovating tools and garden equipment to be donated to charities and organisations in the UK and Africa, or to be sold to raise money for Age UK Exeter. The scheme operates four days a week.

For two days a week the project is open to men who can manage the work and environment independently and on the other two days the Shed offers a more managed environment so that men with physical disabilities and/or mental health needs can safely enjoy the shed – this is Tools Company. Through this programme regular shed attendees act as ‘Buddies’ for older men who would not otherwise be able to access the Shed, who are known as ‘Chaps’.

The scheme was initially funded by a £10,000 grant from Nesta as part of the Ageing Well Challenge Prize. During the grant period the Shed supported 19 Chaps to attend the Shed regularly. Now that the Nesta grant has come to an end the scheme is funded by a number of trusts and foundations, and benefits from in-kind donations of tools and training from corporate supporters.

The project as a whole costs approximately £32k per annum, with salary costs making up around 80 per cent of the costs (to ensure appropriate risk and safety levels on all four days). The scheme is widely advertised through posters and local media etc. ‘Chaps’ are referred to the scheme by Mental Health teams, Social Services, Age UK Exeter and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. The scheme also accepts self-referrals. It has attracted men who have not attended and do not want to attend day centres, clubs and other activities where the primary focus is on chat.

Evaluation of impact over the six month period supported by Nesta demonstrated that participation in Tools Company resulted in:

  • An increase in the amount of time in which older men were engaged in meaningful activities each week;
  • A reduction in feelings of loneliness and isolation among all participants;
  • Increased social contact and lasting friendships between older men.

Age UK Exeter have produced a short guide entitled ‘Create Your Own Tools Company’ to support other organisations to replicate their model in other areas.

Participant Quote:

“I love the company. Because of my depression I’m not very sociable so I come for the company. There are people here with lots of skills and I’m still learning skills and I’m still learning things. I know what we are doing is helping other people. I must say I felt at a loss when I retired. I missed the male company and the camaraderie. This place brings us all together”

Who: Age UK Exeter

Age UK Exeter
138 Cowick Street
Exeter, EX4 1HS

Tel: 01392 202092

Web: www.ageuk.org.uk/exeter/our-services/men-in-sheds