How to beat boredom - Menzsheds

After years of working hard, many people look forward to retirement when they don’t have to juggle demands and deadlines and time is their own. But others can find it quite difficult to adjust.

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Douglas Hornigold, 82, retired two years ago after managing a number of businesses, but soon found he was bored sitting around at home and needed something to do.

A friend suggested joining the Henley men’s shed in Masterton, and the former business owner hasn’t looked back.

He now spends hours crafting wooden models and has produced a Rolls Royce and Land Rovers, as well as turning his skills to creating dolls’ houses.

“Mostly what I do is all done from scrap wood,” he says.

“I don’t buy wood – it’s just old wood, scrap wood or wood that we’ve been given here, and I’ll cadge it.   Some things which are a bit harder to make at home, I’ll do here and then take them home and finish them off.”

The dolls’ house is for his four year-old neighbour.

“There’s a little girl next door and we’ve got rather friendly, she talks to me over the fence. I made one or two toys here and she’s ended up getting them.”

Creating such intricate work is satisfying but Douglas also values the companionship at the men’s shed.

“When you come in, you don’t expect to see a miserable face, everybody’s smiling and happy to be here. It’s great.

“If you’ve got a problem, like I do a lot of work at home and I get stuck on something, I’ll bring it in here and somebody will know how to fix it for me.”

A helping hand

Ian Campbell, 78, agrees.

“If we don’t know how to do something, there’s always somebody here that can give you a hand, somebody to hold things for you. Dougie’s been giving me a hand making letters for a sign. That’s the good thing – it’s the companionship that’s the best bit.”

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The retired sheep and beef farmer used to have plenty of space but when he moved to a house in town, he found it all a bit cramped so heads to the shed when he can.

“We’ve got a wide range of equipment for people to use, we’ve got space which I haven’t got in my little workshop at home and we’ve got companionship.”

The members work on individual projects but also tackle community wish lists, some of which has included producing equipment for kindergartens in Featherston and Masterton.

“We make play and gym equipment; balance beams, see saws, and puzzles for kids, that sort of thing,” says Ian.

“We tend to do the sort of things that are not commercially viable. We don’t take on anything that we think would be better done by a commercial firm as we don’t want to compete.”

The Henley shed, with around 120 members, is a busy operation where wood work, metal work, gardening, and cooking are all on offer.

There are also story telling and men’s health information sessions, and they run school holiday programmes.

Although they make time for a cuppa, there’s no time for anyone to be bored.

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Boredom a major issue

For some men, however, boredom can be a major issue when they finish paid work, particularly if they’ve not done any planning ahead of time, says Ray Hall, the chairman of Menzsheds in New Zealand.

“They get through to retirement and haven’t really put any thought into what they might do afterwards.

“Even in the 20-30 years prior to retirement, a lot of men get involved in work and that’s it. They don’t do things outside of work so when they get to retirement, it’s an even bigger break than it needs to be.”

Ray got involved with men’s sheds because he’d been thinking about what he’d like to do when he retired.

Others find it reduces the risk of becoming socially isolated.

“Most of the guys we see in New Brighton seem to say, ‘Look, I’ve got a workshop but it’s really nice to come down here and talk to someone’ and that’s primarily what it’s all about,” says Ray.

“Through that social interaction, you pick up some of the health-related benefits, ie reducing men’s sense of isolation.”

He says the men find it easier to talk about health issues in the shed and realise others may have had similar problems so they can gain some support and learn from those experiences.

While the sheds cater primarily for men, women are great supporters of the concept, says Ray.

“We find women are often the most supportive, quite often it’s the women who will drag the men across so quite obviously they recognize it as being something worthwhile.

“If you’ve got somebody who’s got something to look forward to each week, that flows back to the home and if someone’s got a positive outlook on life, they’re a lot more pleasant to be around.”

More information

There are more than 90 men’s sheds set up throughout the country. Menzshed New Zealand, which operates as a charity, has a website with a map where you can start the search for a shed near you.

You can always find ways to contribute by volunteering at a centre near you.