Isolated 67-Year-Old Sets Up Woodworking Shed To Fight Loneliness In Men & Women

A 78-year-old man who returned to his native UK after more than four decades of working overseas found himself feeling incredibly lonely and isolated. Philip Jackson said he felt “like a foreigner” in his own country, and he knew he had to do something to change his situation. Now, he’s feeling better than ever and he’s helping other men combat loneliness as well.

Jackson’s mental health was in a terrible state. Talking to The Guardian, Jackson admitted that upon returning to the UK at 67, he felt completely and utterly alone. “I had a strong Australian accent, and everyone I knew when I was younger had moved away or was dead,” he recalled.

He noticed that he wasn’t the only one feeling so bad. While Jackson himself was having a hard time with being so isolated, he noticed his situation wasn’t unique and in fact, many other men were suffering too. “I’d never seen loneliness like it,” he said. “There were so many lonely old men, in particular.”

Philip Jackson decided he had to do something about it. While he spent time traveling around the country and even applied for a few jobs, he struggled to find anyone who would hire him at his advanced age. “When I came back home, I saw how industry had been decimated. The factory where I did my apprenticeship had closed down,” he remembered.

Then, a genius idea struck him. Jackson recalled that while he was working abroad in Australia, there was something called the Australian Men’s Shed Association. The collective, which consists of over 1,000 sheds across the country, works to fight loneliness in men via communal woodworking. Jackson decided to set one up in his hometown of Barnsley in 2014. He secured a small National Lottery Grant and collected donated woodworking equipment, and The Barnsley Men’s Shed was born.

Women aren’t left out either. In addition to the Men’s Shed, Jackson also created the “She-Shed” which offers a community space for women. All of the Sheds’ members are between the ages of 22 and 87 and everyone comes together once a week. Men meet on Tuesday, while women get together on Wednesdays. They come from all different backgrounds but are there for a common reason: to enjoy a bit of company.

Jackson welcomes everyone to the sheds if they’re the right fit. He says that joining the Sheds is pretty simple. They hold a small interview with the interested party and then invite them down for “a cup of coffee and a chat.” He adds: “If they’re happy with the environment and the people, they’re more than welcome to continue.”

The members don’t just make fun projects, they make friends. While there are some serious woodworking projects going on, the Sheds serve a much larger purpose. “It’s like the shed at the bottom of your garden, but all your friends are there. It’s a break from people’s weekly routines. It gets them out and talking to similar people,” Jackson says.

So many people have found comfort and peace in the group. “The Shed has become a brotherhood and a sisterhood, where many people have found solace and respite from the many anxieties that are impacting on their life,” says Sandra Potesta, a social enterprise director and a happy member of the Sheds. She also happens to be Philip Jackson’s wife. It’s clear the Sheds really are bringing people together.

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