Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1960, are now retiring in massive numbers. In 2013 the fraction of our population who were retired was 15%. It’s growing. Statistics Canada predicts that by 2030 the percentage of our population 65 or older will be 25 %. Not all will be able to retire. One could describe it as a tsunami of need.

The statistics in Chart 1 might not be new to you, but what we are discovering in studies across several countries, is the growing loneliness and health problems that result.

MacMaster University in Hamilton Ontario studies show 40% of older adults experience loneliness, with 7 to 17% report being socially isolated. Although these terms are often used in place of one another, social isolation and loneliness are not quite the same thing. Social isolation refers to an actual lack of social support and meaningful contact, we are loneliness refers to a person's belief that they are lacking or have lost companionship, and the negative feelings that stem from this.

Source: McMaster University optimal ageing portal newsletter:
Whether actual or perceived, social isolation and loneliness can have real impact on the overall health and well-being of older adults. In fact, social isolation is linked with; increased death, dementia, depression, and the risk of elder abuse.

While loneliness is associated with: increased blood pressure, cognitive design, and reducing the body's ability to protect itself from infections.

The UK government considers this situation so alarming that the national government appointed a Minister for Loneliness.

The Men's Shed solution

Men's Sheds focus on the reality of loneliness and isolation among men in this growing senior population and what's happening at the grassroots to address it.

Feeling this epidemic of loneliness and isolation are senior couples who choose to downsize and move to communities where they don't know anyone.

The men in these couples often give up their home hobby rooms and workshops when they move.

They no longer have a refuge in which to putter and spend the free time that retirement brings.
They leave friends behind. Attempting to continue to connect by phone, mail or Internet does not provide the social richness of face-to-face meetings with the other guys. The death of a spouse can be devastating. Widowers are quite welcome at a Men’s shed.

Women, on the other hand, find it relatively easy to enjoy the benefit of connecting and seem to foster it whether it be with book clubs, sewing groups, gardening groups to name only a few.

Most men do not find it so easy to do this. Think of the number of events in your community that are so well attended by women but men are noticeably absent, because they choose to be.

Men don't ask for the help they need.
© 2020 Kevin Ford