The Men's Shed movement is all about mateship, productivity and positive mental health - three qualities that can be lacking in the lives of male residents in nursing homes and retirement villages.
Recognising this, the Forster Tuncurry Men's Shed and a number of nursing homes in the area are working together in an effort to boost the mental health of their male residents by introducing some of the activities and principles of the Men's Shed to the facilities.
Despite being in its early stages, the collaboration has already proven beneficial, with many of the participants shrugging off their tendencies to isolate themselves in order to get involved and rediscover a sense of purpose.
Nowhere is this more evident than at Estia Health, Tuncurry, where, since kicking off in December, the number of residents taking part in the activities has risen from three to 43.
"Their mental health has gone through the roof," lifestyle coordinator, Aaron Dodds, said.
"We've seen massive positive growth both mentally and physically."
With an initial focus on woodworking and craft, the residents have been supported with recycled timber, tools and workshop assistance from the Men's Shed - and they've proven themselves quite a talented bunch, with many of the participants now asking for more elaborate projects to take on.
"At present in nursing homes there are a lot of programs for women but not a lot for men," Forster Tuncurry Men's Shed treasurer, Shaun Coyne, said.
"It's a sad truth, but a lot of men in nursing homes are waiting to die. This is a way of awakening their minds. They feel useful again."
Mr Coyne said while woodworking and craft were popular past times, the Men's Shed didn't want them to be the only outlets available to residents, with plans to equip them with social media skills so they could stay in contact with their loved ones.
And, he admitted, the initiative wasn't really about the Men's Shed at all, but rather about empowering the residents and giving them ownership over their own lives.
"We're going to give logistical support and help them get set up," he said.
While things have been tracking well at Estia Tuncurry, where a small work area has been set up and plans were in place to improve and expand this space, the next step in the initiative involved giving residents of other aged care facilities access to the same activities.
"We're getting more and more nursing homes coming to us saying this is a great idea," Mr Coyne said.
"It's about getting a model we can work with."
A meeting was held at Estia Tuncurry on Wednesday, May 22 to address this.
Featuring staff and residents from Estia Health, Men's Shed representatives, a number of staff from BaptistCare Kularoo Aged Care Centre, and member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead, the group discussed where the initiative was at and what options were available to implement it further.
Among the suggestions put forward were the establishment of a mobile workshop van, the use of the Estia Tuncurry space as a place where residents from other nursing homes could come to work, and various funding opportunities.
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