Mind Matters: How handymen are beating isolation in Bolton

Martin and Fred say it's made a huge impact on their lives. Credit: ITV

A project in Bolton aimed at staving off isolation in older men is proving to be a huge success. The Men in Sheds of Breightmet trade in skills as well as advice, encouraging older retired men and those with mental health problems to create new social networks. The scheme which is run by Bolton at Home is open to all men but especially welcomes those in need of a confidence boost. At the weekly club men meet at the Wildlife Trust to tend to the grounds, take on building projects and just hang out together.

Tony Cottram from the charity said the idea came from Australia: "People were showing up at A&E with depression related illnesses, and that's why they set up the 'Men in Sheds' project, and here social isolation as we know in this country is a massive problem." He added, "My feeling is that there are loads of men in houses around here who are just stuck behind the door al day and this gives them a chance to come along and have a go at stuff."

The scheme seems to have made a big impact on those nearby. Fred Lovell comes every week and says without it he wouldn't have cared if 'he lived or died.' "It's absolutely brilliant, totally life changing, re-engaging with society." Many of the other men here spoke with pride about the bond's they'd made with other men and the skills they'd learned.

John Franklin who is retired said boredom brought him to the project but admits it's opened his eyes: "It's absolutely made for the purpose to get men together, retired men, bored and unemployed men, men with mental issues, addictions, they're all welcome here we embrace them all."

The scheme has been so successful health agencies are now referring people to the project to help in their recovery from depression, addiction and other mental health problems.