ELDER ABUSE: Australia's Men's Sheds are providing a great platform for listening and sharing of views and information on elder abuse.
ELDER ABUSE: Australia's Men's Sheds are providing a great platform for listening and sharing of views and information on elder abuse. johnnyscriv

Elder's Abuse: Helping men have the conversation

THE Men's Sheds approach to informal conversations over a cuppa or a handyman project is helping the shed members open up about elder abuse concerns.

Across Australia there are 980 registered Men's Sheds which provide a perfect platform for information on elder abuse awareness to be disseminated to what Australian Men's Shed Association executive officer David Helmers describes as a "notoriously difficult demographic of Australia to reach".

"Our primary objective is prevention of poor health of men and social isolation," Mr Helmers said. "In doing that we have created a very comfortable space for men to talk to each other and some of these issues do come up quite regularly in the sheds."

Those sheds support about 200,000 'shedders' with an average age of 72 with many coming from an unskilled working background. Shedders meet each week with some sheds open three or four days a week, while others are open all seven days.

The sheds offer a conduit for a lot of organisations who can offer knowledge and support on a variety of men's health issues.

Reaching out to this demographic has a limited success rate when using electronic communication Mr Helmers said. The critical elements of a health message are often lost as many of the Men's Shed members are not regular users of email and the internet. It's the 'shoulder to shoulder' conversation that works.

"When we create these environments, they will talk about problems. I have been working in Men's Sheds for 10 years and some of the conversations I have heard - elder abuse and domestic violence - have been quite eye opening."

Mr Helmers hopes that through the Men's Sheds that are appearing in aged care facilities and through its other sheds, the association may be able to take more obvious role in the awareness campaign.

"Many organisations have looked at how we have addressed a problem and come up with a very practical solution," Mr Helmers said.

The old way approaching a problem was to get a group of men together with a facilitator and say, 'let's talk about it' and then listen to the silence. "Get the same 12 blokes, put them in a room, put an old lawn mower on the table with a bunch of tools and tell them to fix it," Mr Helmers said. "Give them a couple of hours and the results at the end of the day are guaranteed that one, the lawn mower still won't work, but two, they will have formed friendships and talked about subjects they would never have spoken about.

"That's where we can be a conduit for this conversation that needs to be had."

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