Men’s Sheds Edmonton Blog

Senior Living: Organization gives men a place to talk, find support

The whine of a mitre saw and the sharp aroma of a wood preservative are clues that something is happening in Punch Jackson’s spacious Edmonton garage.

But that something is more than the creation of six picnic tables bound for the yard of a permanent supportive housing residence. What’s also going on is the reason Men’s Shed exists: men are creating a place to share and support each other through life’s ups and downs.

Gathering in garages or basement workshops has therapeutic value, says Jackson, one of the Edmonton organizers of Men’s Shed — a men’s support group that started in Australia (where garden sheds serve as an informal gathering place for guys) and now has hundreds of chapters from Denmark to Kenya.

“Lots of guys don’t talk about what’s bothering them,” says Jackson. “But in a garage or shed … they may be fixing a lawn mower, but now they’re talking.”

“A lot of guys are used to going to work and meeting a whole bunch of people,” says Morris Reid, 62, a retired tradesperson and project manager. “Friends, colleagues, and you see them five days a week. Many men miss that interaction.”

Canada launched its first shed in Manitoba in 2011 and now has more than 50 groups nationwide, with about 11 in Alberta. In Edmonton, the movement is supported in part by the Sage Seniors Association and is funded modestly through municipal and foundation grants.

The pandemic was hard on Men’s Shed, say organizers in Edmonton, where six groups were reduced to three. But for the men who stuck with it over the past couple of years — there were 99 meetings via Zoom — the gatherings proved a boon.

“We didn’t miss a stride,” says Brian Christenson, 74. “It gets men together. It fights isolation, which is probably the worst thing. Coming through COVID, isolation is a big problem.”

According to the organization’s Canadian website, Men’s Shed was formed in part to help deal with isolation, depression and loneliness, which is often a problem once people retire, and especially so for men who connect their identity to their jobs.

“For men, to sit around a table and have a coffee or play some card games, that’s when people start to open up,” says Reid.

While the movement aims to be active in the community, nobody has to build a picnic table to get involved; lots of members aren’t interested in the traditional male pursuits of woodwork, or golf. In Calgary, Men’s Sheds have repaired bicycles for immigrant children. Edmonton gatherings feature speakers on men’s health and local history. One Métis member who is an artist has led painting workshops.

Other connections are less organized. A chef taught another member whose wife had died how to make a good spaghetti sauce from scratch. Some men just come in for coffee and a chat and have no need for anything more than that.

“As soon as I walked through the door, I felt good,” says Christianson, who joined the movement in 2018 after his wife went into long term care. “The guys were welcoming. I felt like that’s where I belonged.”

In Edmonton, group members spread the word about the benefits of Men’s Sheds in a variety of ways. They advertise in local newsletters. Sometimes they meet in a park with a sign that beckons people who might be interested. The group has recently connected with a downtown Edmonton church and hopes to expand its membership with better access to meeting space and an on-site workshop.

The three men I spoke to are in their sixties and seventies, but younger men are also part of Men’s Shed, where some learn new skills, or just enjoy the vibe.

“You bring to the table whatever you have,” says Reid.

Spending time in Jackson’s sawdust-scented garage, it’s clear that the people working together on this bright summer’s day bring a lot to the picnic table, including a good sense of humour. They are planning to produce a fundraising calendar featuring men wearing little more than tool belts and standing behind strategically placed table saws.

“People might pay us not to create the calendar,” one participant joked as he brushed pieces of lumber with wood preservative.

My guess is that the calendars will enjoy brisk sales. People know a good thing when they see it. For more information, visit

— Liane Faulder writes the Life in the 60s column.

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Punch Jackson, Chairman of the Board
Men’s Sheds Edmonton