Men’s Shed Article Published on sageing.ca

The Okanagan Men’s Sheds Association (OKMSA),  is a special initiative for men, described as: “A community-based, non-profit, non-commercial organization that is accessible to men and whose primary activity is the provision of a safe and friendly environment where men are able to work on meaningful projects at their own pace in their own time in the company of other men”. 

Let’s explore how this group connects with and engages men in “later life” situations where they may have moved to Kelowna with their wives or on their own, leaving behind a very busy life, friendships, commitments, busy-ness, etc., to take advantage of the unique lifestyle and gorgeous Okanagan landscape.  You know, “on golden pond” kind of thing.  Sounds great so far.

Along with this alluring concept sometimes comes a darker side of life that envelops many men – a very private onset of being without their usual sense of purpose, a sense of aloneness and inactivity, sometimes depression, apathy around not finding suitable options or activities of interest, lack of confidence, avoiding getting involved in some meaningful way, not having their comfortable workshop or “toolkits” where they could fix or make things or just putz around or hang out with a friend.

It seems that women connect easily with other women and share their stories so readily and honestly.  It is also a known fact that women tend to live longer, in part by being able to utilize this warmth and connection with other women,  minimizing the internal stress and  some of the harmful “darkness” mentioned earlier.

Changing or repurposing something or developing some way to craft a thing of beauty, or making a contribution of some sort to the community, and being able to enjoy a sense of accomplishment is vital to how many of men feel at the end of each day with an optimistic outlook to the next.

Kelowna is significantly fortunate to have synergies and common links to interests, activities and opportunities relative to Creative Aging, a growing factor that enables us to live longer, healthier and happier lives in the Okanagan.  We are experiencing and enjoying the benefits that come with awareness and engagement that stimulates our sometimes dormant creative juices.  It’s wonderful when a person can simply be connected to an organization or persons who help facilitate the rejuvenation of spirit , purpose and wellness in a man.

Art Post, current President of OKMSA and Wade Bottorff have been actively working to launch this organization in Kelowna since 2012, initially inspired when a family member in Australia who found himself alone and in need of human connection, was put in touch with Men’s Sheds Australia, where he was able to find new purpose.

In July of 2013, Okanagan Men’s Sheds Association (OKMSA) received registration as a non-profit society in BC and today has about 15 active members in Kelowna.  In July of 2014 the organization applied for a New Horizons Grant to establish a pilot Men’s Shed in Kelowna which was confirmed and approved for start up mid March 2015.

As it so often happens for a man, the question arises, “what am I going to do when I have to move to a place where there is no workshop?”  This prompted Art to reach out to international sheds for information, guidelines, start up operating plans and approvals.

OKMSA has participated in a UBCO webinar, with UBC MD&S Network and UMB on a national Men’s Sheds project. They have developed their own web site with a registered domain www.mensshed.ca and are currently involved with UBCO students in development of an improved web page.

Amazingly, Men’s Sheds is alive and well in Ireland, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, Manitoba (Canada’s first Men’s Shed) and now Kelowna.  Men’s global health research initiatives has revealed that researchers and experts from these countries were able to link previously unexplored aspects of the health and well being of men, with emphasis on the transitions through aging and isolation.

These findings increased awareness for the need to support the development of a shed operation in Kelowna and hopefully other future places in BC.  Kelowna and the Okanagan have one of the highest densities of seniors in Canada with a corresponding incidence of isolation, depression and suicide especially among senior men.

Art and his friends at Men’s Sheds have a clear vision of what’s needed to attract and support those men in our community who would benefit from such an organization –  to be able to show a dedicated facility in action, a place where men can be seen working together on projects, having great coffee discussions, sharing stories and mentoring others, learning how to use new tools, even learning to cook or simply to be in the company  of other men for friendship,  fun and maybe discover a new side of themselves. ‘photo5”

They have been fortunate and are grateful at this point to have access to two seniors facilities with meeting space or workshop area.  They are Hawthorn Seniors Residence and The Branch 55 Seniors Centre.

Hard work and advocacy in community events where Men’ Sheds was highlighted has led to a broader awareness and interest in this organization at senior levels of Government and Health Services.

Written by Ed Bownes in collaboration with Art Post