Tiny home collaboration builds self-esteem for retired men

After the Halswell Menzshed built this fruit and vegetable tunnel for the St John of God Hauora...
After the Halswell Menzshed built this fruit and vegetable tunnel for the St John of God Hauora Trust hospital, a partnership was formed to further support men with disabilities or in transition. ​Photo: Supplied
A Christchurch organisation that helps combat the isolation many older men experience after they retire has partnered with a hospital to support people with disabilities.

The Halswell Menzshed group operates from the St John of God Hospital, where adults with physical and neurological impairments receive residential and respite support.

The Menzshed decided to collaborate with the hospital to create a ‘tiny home’ for men with disabilities, or men in transition from redundancy, bereavement, ill-health and rehabilitation.

Said Virginia Spoors, St John of God Hauora Trust health and ability services regional manager: “The project will help provide a model which offers more choices for people living with a disability in their aims to live with independence in a community setting.

“The value of this increased interaction for residents is immeasurable in terms of self-esteem, feeling connected, and being able to have adult conversations with people that are not paid participants in their care.”

The Menzshed offers a safe, welcoming place for men to put their skills to work towards community and personal DIY projects, fostering new friendships as a result.

Manager Roger Spicer said partnering with the community is an integral part of the group.

The hospital already provided the facility they worked from, while the Menzshed does work for them in return.

In 2015, the shed built a tunnel house that housed fresh fruit and vegetables to the hospital’s kitchen for residents to enjoy.

Spicer said that some shed attendees are facing trauma or life transitions.

Social isolation and loneliness are recognised as major issues in New Zealand as the country’s population continues to get older.

“We’re involved with the whole man; the spiritual, the mental, the physical. Guys need a place where they can make friends and talk about some of their problems,” he said.

The Halswell Menzshed members demonstrating their creativity. Photo: menzshed.org.nz
The Halswell Menzshed members demonstrating their creativity. Photo: menzshed.org.nz
Statistics from the Ageing Well National Science Challenge show about 10 per cent of people over 65 feel lonely most of the time.

For some, coming along to Menzshed is all they need – a place to enjoy a hobby and some company at the same time.

For others, it is a companionable place to learn new skills that can help them take the next step into paid work.

The Menzshed also helps out on projects for schools and not-for-profit organisations.

The lower-cost labour options provided by Menzshed meant the jobs get done, rather than being put to the side and seen as unaffordable.

This would not be possible without the crucial funding from the Rātā Foundation.

Said foundation chief executive Leighton Evans: “We recognise social connections can help reduce isolation and build resilient communities by providing opportunities for people to interact, form relationships and share experiences.”



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