Everything was going well in retirement for 72-year-old Brian Christianson until the day his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and eventually had to move into long-term care. Brian’s wife had been a pillar of social support in his life, and without her, he began losing touch with the world. After many days and evenings channel surfing in his living room, Brian knew that he needed to do something to reconnect with his community. It was around this time that Brian learned about the Downtown Edmonton Men’s Shed based out of Sage Seniors Association.
“I came down one Friday and it’s been great,” says Brian. “I enjoy coming out on Fridays. It gives me a reason to go out.”
Fast forward to the present and Brian is now the host of the downtown shed. In the shed, Brian has found a great support group of other men who also sought new connections and experienced similar challenges to himself. “I had loneliness and there’s other people that had loneliness and different problems to deal with,” says Brian.
The informal setting of the shed made Brian feel right at home, “Men talk shoulder to shoulder,” says Brian. “If you’re working on a project and there’s a guy sitting beside you, you’re going to talk to him.”
On January 10th , the downtown shedders got together for their first meet-up of the year. Some brought crafts, while others brought art supplies. Still, others brought meals from Sage’s cafeteria with no plans other than catching up over lunch. In no time at all, the small classroom in the basement of Sage Seniors Association was a flurry of activity with the sounds of conversation and laughter reverberating off the walls, punctuated by the occasional clatter of a tool dropping to a table or a saw making quick work of a series of popsicle sticks.
Richard, a retired woodworker, created a scaled-back workshop fabricating bee hives and bird houses out of popsicle sticks. As Richard sawed the popsicle sticks down to the proper size, another shedder named Mohammed carefully constructed a roof for the tiny aviary.
Meanwhile, Brian sat across the table to tackle a project of his own as he configured his popsicle sticks in a square arrangement. “I used to have a wreath on my door,” says Brian. “I got so sick and tired of looking at it that I took it down and now I need something else to put up”. When another shedder asked what he was making, Brian chortled, “I don’t know yet. I’m just putting popsicle sticks on top of each other and we’ll see what happens”.
Across the room, Dale, another shedder and board member of the Men’s Sheds Association of Edmonton, painted a vibrant still life. Dale was initially invited to host a paint class at the Beacon Heights shed and now hosts workshops at the other sheds, including the downtown location at Sage. “It’s
something to do instead of sitting at home doing nothing,” says Dale.
- On a folded piece of paper that Brian keeps stored in his notebook is a poem that reads:
- Men have a lot on their shoulders.
- Kids rely on men. Women rely on men.
- Who do men rely on? Themselves.
- This is why men need friends.
- Being an isolated pillar of strength can wear on the best of men.
- This is why so many men kill themselves.
“I find that really hits to the crux of it,” says Brian, who is an ardent advocate for men’s mental health. Brian’s message to other senior men looking to get active in their community is simple. “Once you look at a shed, you’re gonna like it.”
Edmonton as a whole is richer when seniors are valued, respected, and supported. Edmonton’s Men’s Sheds are an excellent resource for men of all ages seeking greater community involvement. The Men’s Sheds Association of Edmonton currently has six locations across Edmonton in varying stages of development. The programming at each shed is varied and adapted to suit participant’s interests.
Men who are interested in learning more about the Edmonton sheds should contact Punch Jackson, originator and board chairman of the Men’s Sheds Association of Edmonton, by email at email@example.com or by phone at 780-717-6710.