Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre

Nurmi et al: Older Men's Perceptions of the Need For and Access to Male-focused Community Programmes

movember 1 Study examining the need for and accessibility to male-focused community programmes in Canada, such as Men's Sheds. 

"This study contributes to a body of research aimed at better understanding the need for male-focused community programmes, and possible barriers to participation..."
Participating in community activities is associated with positive physical and mental health outcomes for older adults, including increased lifespan and resilience when facing age-related changes such as loss or declining health status. Although this study examines male-focused community programmes in Canada, it can provide insights to anyone seeking to engaging older men in male-focused community programmes.


This study examines the need for and accessibility to Men’s Sheds in Canada, a small but growing Men’s Sheds movement. Focus groups were conducted with men aged 55+, from Men’s Sheds, men from the community unfamiliar with the programme and men from a variety of socio-demographic backgrounds. Data was extracted and analysed, and the data revealed two primary themes regarding:

1. A Need For Male-focused Community Programmes

Including Sub-Themes:

  • Reducing Isolation
  • Forming Friendships and
  • Engaging in Continued Learning, and

2.Access to Programmes

Including sub-themes:

  • Points of Contact
  • Sustaining Attendance and
  • Barriers

Research suggests that older men may participate less often than women in community programmes, and it may be due to existing programmes being more appealing to women.

Other barriers of participation may be family commitments, transportation, language barriers, disability and chronic illness. Less participation of men in community programmes may contribute to isolation.

Key Findings:

  • Reducing Isolation: Participants in the focus groups discussed experience of isolation, as well as the experiences of close others who had few opportunities for social contact as important factors for the need for community programming. One participant said: “There’s a lot of us guys just sitting at home doing nothing. They’re looking at the four walls and they don’t have anybody to talk to.”
  • Forming Friendships: Participants stressed the importance of having someone to talk to and develop friendships. One participant expressed that groups for men could help create opportunities for men to be actively involved in maintaining social networks.
  • Engaging in Continued Learning: Participants expressed a need to engage in continued learning. Teaching and learning from each other would be a primary reason to attend Men’s Sheds or men’s groups. One Men’s Shed participant said: ‘I mean somebody else knows how to do glass, somebody else knows how to fix motorcycles, so I kind of like that idea if there’s an opportunity to learn something new.’
  • Access: Participants highlighted the positive benefits of receiving information about male-focused programming in the workplace when close to retirement, and one Men’s Shed participant received a direct invitation from a neighbourhood Men’s Shed advocate. Participants indicated that they would be most likely to hear about a male-focused community program from a female family member, community organisations, through local sources including community programming newspapers, community mailboxes, local signs and word of mouth from healthcare service providers for example.
  • Sustaining Attendance: Key elements of initiating and sustaining attendance were a friendly and a welcoming atmosphere and a common interest in the activities.
  • Barriers: The most common barriers were distance and travel (not wanting to travel too far to join a Shed for example), communication (for newcomers to Canada still learning English), branding and promotional materials (Disliking the way the male-focused programming was presented.), physical and mental health related barriers.


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