Around 30% of people in East Devon are aged 65 or over. Men typically find it more difficult to build social connections than women, and, unlike women of a similar age, fewer older men have networks of friends and rarely share their concerns about their health and personal worries. For some men, when retirement comes it can feel like their personal identity and sense of purpose is lost. There may be nowhere to use the skills that they’ve learnt at work or at school or over a lifetime, and few places to meet people and make new contacts and potential friends. Some men live alone because their partner has died: others find themselves being the full-time carer for their partners who may themselves need medical, physical and emotional support. The resulting loneliness and isolation can create a dangerous downward spiral.

A positive and proactive response to these problems is the “Men’s Shed” movement, where people have got together to create a place where local men can go to make things, repair things, meet with other men and socialise – even if it’s just to have a cup of tea and a chat. There are now over 400 Men’s Sheds in the UK (see www. , including in Exmouth, Ottery and Honiton, with more starting up all the time. Activities in Men’s Sheds vary, but you can usually find woodworking, metalworking, repairing and restoring, electronics or model-building. Many Men’s Sheds get involved in community projects. Sheds typically attract older men, but many have younger members and women too. A Men’s Shed is not about the building that it’s in, but the connections and relationships between its members.

Beer Men’s Shed has now started up in Beer. We’re already making items, taking on commissions from local people and organisations, and attracting men to join in not only from Beer but from Seaton, Axminster and surrounding villages as well. We’ve been offered a site for our first workshop next to Mariners’ Hall in the centre of Beer village. And we’re raising money to build our workshop and buy lots of useful equipment for it. So far we’ve received donations and pledges for over £4,500. To donate, please go to .

Our aim is to do something to help make our community stronger and to help men in our area to have healthier and happier lives. If you want to get involved in any way, please email Chris Pickles at