COVID-19 – the word instils fear among most of us, particularly men’s sheds members in the older age category. TP O’Gorman of Kilbeggan Men’s Shed spoke to us in the last column about how his shed is coping, what he’s learnt from the pandemic and looks forward to in the future of the men’s shed.

The Kilbeggan shed comprises about 20 men. They have split into five groups of four that have committed to stay in touch by phone or text. But the shed is struggling in the absence of face-to-face contact.

TP says: “Men don’t talk face to face, is the motto, we talk shoulder to shoulder. We talk best when we’re engaged in some activity and that’s what we’re missing right now.

“At the minute a lot of men’s sheds are struggling. Members are keeping in contact by phone or by Zoom or WhatsApp but there is a cohort of men that are afraid of technology and we’re not getting in touch with those guys.

People who are isolated

“The car is another essential in rural Ireland. You can hop into the car, go into town and get the few messages, meet a few people and go back home again. But what about the people that don’t drive and those who might be living on their own? People who are isolated and that don’t get the opportunity to talk to other people? That can really get to them. I would say that it is contributing to negative wellbeing.”

So when the pandemic is over, what are the lessons that TP has learnt? How do we ensure that those who are isolated are brought back into the fold?

“Community is so important, that gets lost a bit in modern life. Knowing where the vulnerable people are so that somebody local can see what they can do to help them.

Sheds are fine but sheds are just buildings

“For instance, I know men in my area that should be in a men’s shed. It has got to be somebody local that ticks the right box or pushes the right button to get those men to come to that men’s shed. It’s not going to come from on high, it’s not going to come from a Government directive.”

No man should think that he will not be welcome in a shed or that the shed doesn’t need or want him.

“Sheds are fine but sheds are just buildings,” says TP. “We need the men to join the sheds. I know there’s a plethora of men in Kilbeggan and across the country that would not only benefit from being in a men’s shed, but would be of huge benefit to the men’s shed.

“Every single man that comes in the door of the shed might not feel that they are talented or gifted but I can tell you they are. They can all make a contribution.”

Read more

Men’s Sheds: ‘A different kind of friendship’

Men’s Sheds: every day is a school day