19 August 2019
Many downsizers, particularly men, find it hard to leave behind their private 'Mr Maker' space in the family home's shed or garage. However, retirement villages are now increasingly setting up men's sheds - full of the latest gadgets and tools - to ensure incoming residents can continue to tinker.
Once a new trend, the concept of a men’s shed has become mainstream. Not only are men’s sheds springing up around towns and neighbourhoods, they are also becoming an integral part of downsizer properties.
Despite being called men's sheds, these spaces allow both sexes to enjoy all the activities that would have been previously performed in a backyard shed or garage, including making and repairing things or simply relishing the rewards of knowing “I made that”.
And the good news is that men's sheds are more than just a place to make things - they are also a great way to meet new friends.
A place to meet and make
RetireAustralia’s Glengara Retirement Village, at Tumbi Umbi on the NSW Central Coast features a resident village workshop – essentially both a men’s and women’s shed.
The residents relish this busy little hub, putting their skills to work creating furniture for the village, artworks and also supporting fellow residents, who need help with odd jobs in their homes.
Village Manager Melissa Hamilton says the village workshop has recently undergone a $75,000 upgrade. This has doubled the workspace, added new tools to the mix and created new opportunities for residents.
The new machinery includes an impressive line-up of equipment including a woodworking lathe, band saw, compound saw and dust extractor.
This allows residents to expand or explore their interests in woodwork, building and design.
One of the biggest jobs to come out of the workshop was the construction of 24 new tabletops for the Village Centre, which has been a big plus for resident activities. In addition, a number of new sculptures have been created for the retirement community’s garden.
According to village workshop Treasurer Denys Champness (a toolmaker by trade) he and his fellow ‘Mr and Mrs Fix-it’s’ are kept busy doing odd jobs for residents. He loves the challenge of taking on a knotty problem and designing the solution.
“It’s very satisfying to make things with our hands, and all the residents show their appreciation for the work we do,” says Champness.
Sheds at RSL LifeCare and Stockland villages
Further down the coast, in the RSL ANZAC Village at Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, the community shed is a regular hotspot of activity.
It’s been a feature of the village for almost 20 years, and it reflects a broader commitment that sees around half of RSL LifeCare’s 23 villages feature a community shed.
The community shed at RSL LifeCare Anzac Village, Narrabeen is run by a group of residents. It isn’t affiliated with any particular men’s shed group, nor is it governed by any official policies.
It is however, incredibly welcoming, and has proved to be a great place for people to go to keep busy and feel valued.
At Narrabeen, much of the equipment is donated, and it’s put to good use repairing furniture, turning bowls, and even making bird and possum houses.
Downsizing.com.au caught up with local resident John, who said the availability of a community shed was an important factor in making the move to village life.
“I looked at a number of retirement places before moving into RSL Anzac Village,” he says. “The community shed was definitely a big positive for me.”
Many of Stockland’s retirement villages across Australia also have men’s sheds that provide residents with a safe space to work on physical projects. This includes the shed at Stockland Donvale in Melbourne's north-east (a photo of which is featured above the headline).
“Our men’s shed creates a space for the residents to work on a lot of different projects,” said Darren Ward, Village Manager of the Hillsview Retirement Village in South Australia.
“The communal space may be considered as an incentive to some, and there is a definite sense of togetherness and comradery that comes out of the shed.”
The resourcing of men’s sheds is part of an ongoing trend whereby retirement villages are providing an increasing number of services and facilities to incoming residents.
The 2018 Retirement Living Census found that 97% of new developments have at least five facilities or services available for residents, including health services, emergency call systems, social programs, cafes and, of course, men’s sheds.
Men's sheds would appear to be playing an important role supporting a healthy, productive and cohesive community in retirement villages, and also encouraging men (and their partners) to take the plunge and move into a village.
By Anthony O'Brien, contributor to Downsizing.com.au