It’s alluring to have a place that is wholly your own – a safe place to express your true self, in your own way and in your own time.

For many men, the backyard shed has traditionally offered this haven. The shed has even become such an Australian icon that we shared it with the world in the opening ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

Men’s sheds

Men’s sheds have successfully developed from the backyard shed. Today, over 30,000 people, mostly men, regularly gather in the 1,000 plus men’s sheds located across the country. The popularity of these really highlights just how much we enjoy combining sociability with a useful activity.

Many men’s sheds have a range of hand-powered tools and machines used for woodwork repairs, manufacture and restoration. Metal working, welding, gardening and cooking are often carried out. Some even have computer rooms. Many of these men’s sheds will also bring in outside speakers on topics of interest.

Often, these men’s sheds are a ‘life saver’ to assist retirees in handling the major turning point of retirement in their lives.

For many retirees, men’s sheds are a replacement for the sociability and structure of their former workplace. Many blokes enthuse about the companionship and skill sharing. The shed is still the retreat, but this shed comes with a support team. Plus, it provides a regular routine and plenty to look forward to.

“It’s up to the members of each shed to decide what they want to do. Some sheds have no tools at all, and have guest speaker talks, and others do a combination of both. All have access to a DIY Health Kit and health experts. Really, men’s sheds are all about men spending time together”, says Marty Leist from the Australian Men’s Shed Association.

The rise of women’s sheds

Of course, women also meet a major turning point when they retire. More and more women are resolving this by joining or setting up their own women’s shed or casting their creativity further and joining men’s sheds.

Garry Rose from the Blue Gum Hills Shed got his idea to include women from the Kempsey Shed, where both men and women share skills and enjoy each other’s company. They have separate shed days and combined social functions. Garry assures men from other sheds that, “including women isn’t about ‘cloths on the tables’ and the ‘seats down’. Women have many of the skills the men need to establish their new shed – community networks and enthusiasm. And us men like showing the ladies how to change a tyre and use the machinery.” Garry is bringing together people of all ages, experiences, skills and knowledge.

And then there’s the Waverton Hub. This could be could be seen as taking the shed concept even further by developing a wider community ‘virtual shed’ supporting retirees to stay in their community.

The shed as a special place

Having a defined space where you do something special, something that’s an expression of yourself, can be a joy that comes from within and not something ‘off the shelf’. Sheds are an excellent way to start negotiating the major turning point that is retirement.

Gabrielle Leahy, Retire & Flourish