Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Riverstone Men's Shed: Good Practices In A Men's Shed

Riverstone The Riverstone Men's Shed provides a good model for how effective a men's shed can be in integrating the community and promoting male health. In 2014, there are approximately 950 men's sheds around the country and the movement has proven so successful that it has become an accepted model for meeting the needs of older men's health and wellbeing.

The Riverstone Men's Shed is one example among many that has successfully integrated a diverse set of practices to become a focal point for active engagement of men and their families in the local community.

The Riverstone Community

Riverstone was populated by the Darug people and after white settlement it became a centre for agriculture and industry. Riverstone has a population of approximately 6000 people with a median age of around 33. Approximately 9% speak a language other than English at home and around 4% are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. There are increasing numbers of single-person residencies in the area which reflects an aging population. Retired men often face social isolation and it was recognised that there was a need for services that supported their health and wellbeing in an active way.

The 'Riverstone Dig' Men's Shed and Community Centre

The men's shed has come a long way and has become a central point in Riverstone for retired men and the community. It has an extensive community garden with specific areas dedicated to dementia groups and horticultural therapy.

The shed itself is extensively equipped with tools, machinery and equipment selected by the men to repair bicycles and undertake woodwork. The shed area has recently been extended so there is now a separate kitchen area, bathroom facilities and room for sensitive computer equipment.

The organisers provide a selection of men's health information although the idea of pushing health onto the participants is avoided in favour of creating the kind of environment that supports good health and wellbeing.

Good Practices Implemented At Riverstone Men's Shed

Shed coordinator Maree Fayne has identified a number of practices that have produced the great results visible at the shed. These include:

  • Let the men involved make decisions on what they want the space for and what they want from it. This means stepping back and allowing the participants to create the kind of shed and activities they want.
  • Make it easy to take part. The Riverstone shed involves the local community extensively and is based on the same premises as the community centre, it has the preschool next door and the RSL club across the road. It is in a central location in the suburb and has easy access to parking and transport.
  • Make it easy for partners or friends to refer their men. Maree reports that around 70% of the men who come along to the shed were referred by their wives or friends and the role of women in encouraging men to become part of this shed is important.
  • Run associated healthy activities where possible. The Riverstone shed offers cooking classes for men, so they can make use of produce from the garden and improve their cooking skills. This integrated approach means that the shed becomes a way to engage fully in a healthy lifestyle without requiring a lot of extra coordination, logistics or cost. The local health service has also provided SHAPE sessions (Sessions For Health And Physical Exercise).
  • The Riverstone shed sources funding from the Home and Community Care program which means that men over 55 can freely attend the programs offered the shed and centre.
  • Be selective about the level of access provided to health and other services in reaching the men. It is important to be clear that the space is for the men and not as a way for services to reduce their effort in reaching men in other ways.

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