Irish Men’s Sheds: Communities for elderly men looking for a new hobby or a new friend

Men’s shed is a dedicated, friendly and welcoming meeting place where men can come together to share their experiences and knowledge with others, learn new skills or re-develop old ones. It is the ideal community for retired men who are looking for something productive to do with their spare time alongside like-minded peers.

Perhaps, the best aspect of Men Sheds is the social element that helps these men feel like valuable members of their community.  Men in Ireland are often more likely to experience isolation and loneliness than women; they often have poorer health outcomes and are more likely to die from suicide and other preventable causes. A movement like the Men Sheds encourages men to take an interest in their own health and wellbeing. 

Good health is based on many factors including feeling good about yourself, being productive and valuable to your community, connecting to friends and maintaining an active body and an active mind. Men’s Sheds provide a safe and busy environment where members can find many of these things. 

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Portrait of a cheerful senior man in his workshop shed with a cup of tea.

Men Sheds offer various activities ranging from woodwork to gardening, beekeeping and fishing.  Some undertake community projects such as making toys for local childcare groups or putting new life into disused bicycles for a local school. However, there is no pressure and men can just come and have a chat and a cuppa if that’s all they’re looking for.

The Background

The beginnings of the Men’s Shed movement trail back to Australia, where the movement grew in popularity and spread internationally. While endeavouring to engage men through community development, John Evoy travelled to Australia in 2009 and was inspired by the Men’s Sheds concept which had been developing there since the early 1990s1990’s. When he returned, John Evoy set up an Irish Men’s Sheds Association and worked in developing the movement in the Emerald Isle. There are now over 200 Men’s Sheds in Ireland with Men’s Sheds in several other European countries.

2009 marks the beginning of the men’s sheds movement in Ireland in Tipperary where the first men’s shed was formed. Following the formation of the first shed in Ireland, the shed movement began to grow rapidly, with there now being over 400 sheds registered with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association and at least 12,000 men visiting a shed every week. Ireland holds the highest per-capita concentration of men’s sheds anywhere in the world. 

Men Shed’s Association

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA) supports the development of Ireland’s network of men’s sheds. It provides support, resources and information to shed members and volunteers. 

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Following the formation of the Irish Men’s Sheds Association in 2011, the Association began to receive national recognition of its value to Irish society.

The Association has also received governmental and European recognition of their contribution to Ireland. In 2013, the Irish men’s sheds movement received recognition at the very highest level when President Michael D. Higgins became patron to the Irish Men’s Sheds Association.

The Irish Men’s Sheds Association has been named as one of Ireland’s Sustainable Development Goals Champions for 2019/2020, as well as winning the prestigious European Citizens’ Prize in 2018.

The ISMA provides the tools to find your local Men’s Shed and you can contact them here

How to Start Your Own Men’s Shed

Starting a Men’s shed in your local community is an extremely achievable task that only requires a bit of research, time and dedication. There are 5 main steps you can take if you want to start one in your community.

1.Test the level of interest in your community

It is important to first of all test the level of interest among local men in getting involved in a Shed. A good way to start is by organising an information meeting. You can do this by talking to a few friends or local people you think could be interested in helping you get started. Once they’re on board you can start organising the information meeting.

Finding a comfortable and accessible location for the meeting is essential. This can be   a local community, church or sports hall could work perfectly. 

Even more important is getting the word out through local radio, parish newsletters, a poster campaign and/or using social media. Putting flyers through letterboxes and posters in local shops will also help.

Your target audience is men, as well as other local community members and potential businesses and sponsors that might be interested in getting involved. Engaging with men that may be potential ‘shedders’ should be the focus of the first meeting. 

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It’s important to bill the meeting in terms of ‘Would you be interested in setting up and/or being part of a local Men’s Shed?’ This approach does not imply commitment until the level of initial interest is clear and tangible, people will also feel part of the starting process and will be more willing to help out..

2.Form a Working Group

If the first meeting proves that there is indeed a demand for a shed in your community a core group of individuals will be needed to get through the early stages of development. 

Appointing a working group with clearly defined roles and responsibilities ensures that the workload is shared and that a common sense of purpose emerges over time. The members of the working group must remain accountable to the Shed membership at all times.

3.Visit Other Sheds

Once you have a group involved you’ll want to figure what type of Shed will best respond to the members’ needs. A perfect way to do this is to visit several number of other Sheds. There are now over 200 sheds in Ireland so you should find one relatively close by. Find your nearest one here.

Meeting people who have already travelled the road you are setting out on will be very informative and could help you to avoid some potential obstacles along the route.

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4.Find a Suitable Premises

To ensure the sustainability of your shed, finding rent-free premises is critical. Most sheds across the country have managed to find one so don’t be afraid to start looking!

The most important asset to have when looking for a‘a rent- free premises’ is patience. It is easy to find premises if you are willing to pay commercial levels of rent and the group of men may become disillusioned if suitable premises are not identified quickly. However, it’s good to remember that the project you are setting up may last for several years and a little patience and persistence in the early stages may bring immense rewards in the years to come.

Some Sheds have “caretaker agreements” with their landlords where the Men from the Shed look after the building or surrounding area instead of paying rent.

Once you’ve found a location for your shed, the next issue you’ll need to consider is insurance. This might seem like a daunting and complex issue but don’t worry the Irish Men’s Sheds Association have worked hard to make this as simple and straightforward as possible for its members.

A special arrangement exists with BHP Insurances who have a dedicated team to deal with Men’s Sheds. The premium for insuring your Men’s Shed depends on the number of your members and the Public Liability Limit of Indemnity required.

Sheds pay for insurance in different ways, many fundraise locally and the Irish Men’s Sheds Association can give you some guidance on available grants.

5. Planning & Registering

Once you’ve found your premises and you have a small group of men ready to get started it makes sense for the group to think about the answers to these three questions:

  1. What are we trying to achieve here and for whom?
  2. Why do we wish to do this?
  3. How will we go about this work?
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Wood work instruction for senior student

The answers to these questions will shape the running of your shed and inform your mission and vision statement.

It is recommended to register to the IMSA as their work includes hosting regular events that give the Shedders opportunities to network with each other and share ideas. 


Men’s Sheds is a movement based on bringing together individuals who are looking to become a bigger part of their community and rediscover ways to spend their time productively. Ireland has the largest network or Men Shed’s in the world and there are plenty of different activities and communities to choose from. Men Shed’s are not only a social outlet for men but can also improve their mental health and well-being.

Ugne Aksiutovaite
Ugne Aksiutovaite

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