South Lanarkshire Men’s Shed project’s poignant link to disaster-stricken Garden City

Age Scotland Development Officer, Linda Anderson sits on the steering group for South Lanarkshire Men’s Shed project and reports back on their latest project.

When a ruinous earthquake tore through the urban utopia of Christchurch, New Zealand in February 2011, it claimed 185 lives and decimated buildings and infrastructure.

Aftermath  2The country’s deadliest peacetime disaster had followed another earthquake, which shook the ‘Garden City’ – renowned for its alpine ski slopes and wineries – six months previously.

Aftermath 3Although the aftershocks have subsided the natural calamities have sparked one chain of events that has seen a former Christchurch resident re-settle in Scotland – and redouble his efforts to build community spirit.

Kiwi, David Searle moved to Hamilton last month with his Scots wife Mary, who’s originally from the town. He has just joined a group, made up of local volunteers, who are aiming to build a ‘Men’s Shed’ network in South Lanarkshire.

The Men’s Shed concept was first launched in Australia in the 1990s after it was recognised that there was little opportunity for men, especially older males, to forge new friendships.

The shed was recognised as a domain where the typical Aussie man would carry out tasks and hobbies, like restoring furniture, painting or fixing garden machinery. From there, local groups were established and the shed would be the hub where men would meet, socialise and exchange knowledge and skills.

Since then, Men’s Sheds have taken root with projects forming the world-over. In New Zealand, before the earthquakes, David created and developed a similar community project based on the Men’s Shed concept.

Now, as part of the nationwide Reshaping Care for Older People (RCOP) programme, Seniors Together, an organisation which aims to improve the quality of life for older people living in South Lanarkshire, have established the strategic level steering group of volunteers, which David has joined, to set up the initiative here. The project is being run in conjunction with Age Scotland.

A key aim of RCOP is to provide more help and support to enable growing numbers of older people to remain at home and feel involved in their community.

Men’s Shed embodies that principle and David has revealed that it’s a personal epiphany, realised in the aftermath of disaster 11,000 miles away, that is driving his bid to help in South Lanarkshire.

David Searle 1“My abiding memory straight after the first earthquake in September 2010 wasn’t the chaos or the fear you’d typically associate with a natural disaster.

“The quake came in the early hours and we ran outside our house. I’ll never forget the view of the stars that dark morning.

“All the electricity in the city was knocked out and there was no light pollution – you could see straight into the heavens.”

Despite there being no fatalities in the first quake, measuring 7.1 in magnitude (considered major), the second, half a year later and measuring 6.3, took a deadly toll. David and Mary’s house sustained only minor damage – but they underwent a seismic mindset shift.

“Like that view of the stars, my thought processes have never been clearer since the earthquakes,” David explained. “Ultimately people, including myself and my wife, came away seriously reviewing what we wanted out of life.

“The lasting impact has been; if you want to do something, do it now – and put your heart and soul into it.

“Men’s Shed is one of those things that is extremely important to me and doing what I can to make it a success here means a great deal to me.”

David, a radio amateur and electronics enthusiast set up his first community project, based on the Men’s Shed model, in Christchurch around seven years ago.

He explained: “In earlier times mechanics’ institutes or allotments, things I remembered from childhood, served a social bonding purpose for men but had largely fallen away.

“I’d had a successful career and wanted to give something back so I created a project based on the Men Shed model, coordinating 45 volunteers. We set up events where mostly retired men sat alongside young people and mentored them to build electronic and amateur radio projects.

“The project acted as an instant ice breaker between people who’d never met before. Crucially, they were linking back into, and strengthening, the community by sharing the skills they had. That is an immensely rewarding aspect for the people involved.”

The psychological aftermath of February 2011, however, prompted David’s departure from the projects he’d put his heart and soul into.

“Unlike a flood or fire, which you can often see coming, earthquakes come and hit everybody all at the same time without warning. You don’t know when the next one will strike and that has a tremendous psychological impact on people – trauma which is evident in Christchurch today.”

That emotional strain and uncertainty prompted David and his wife Mary to move to be with their son in Sydney, Australia a short time after the second earthquake.

Seeking a fresh start, the couple have settled into Mary’s hometown last month – with David being renewed in his convictions.

“One of the things that struck me after the earthquake was a lot of the places my wife and I had regularly visited, like coffee shops and nature walks, were out of bounds because of the damage to the city.

“An event like that leaves you feeling vulnerable, fragile and alone – compounded by the fact we didn’t have these social anchors, places where we met friends and stayed connected.

“It got me thinking, and reaffirmed my belief in just how important Men’s Shed actually is to those who face similar feelings in everyday life. Men’s Shed is also about giving people a chance to create and give back to the community, using skills that can make a real difference.

“Just having the chance to do that can make an enormous difference to those involved as well.”

David added: “When I heard of the bid to start a Men’s Shed network here I jumped at the chance to become involved.

“I want to harness the tumult of emotion the earthquakes brought out in me and channel that energy to help the group make Men’s Shed a success here.”

Join the Men’s Shed today

In South Lanarkshire, RCOP combines the expertise of third sector organisations with partner agencies including NHS Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire Councils and the independent sector.

Seniors Together, a RCOP partner, is a South Lanarkshire Council project run in association with NHS Lanarkshire.

Christine Calder, Seniors Together’s project manager, said: “The Men Shed movement is about keeping older men connected to the community.

“Overall, it’s great fun and can be hugely satisfying for those involved to be part of something and use skills they’ve developed over their lives. We’re looking to get projects running across the region, from Hamilton to Clydesdale, East Kilbride to Strathaven.

“Whether you’d like a part in shaping the network though joining the steering group or just want join a project, contact us today.”

For more information about this project, you can contact Christine on 01698 454104 or email

Read more about Men’s Sheds in Scotland at




At the speed of love..

Today we bring you some more glorious poetry from Anne Connolly for the Easter weekend,we will let Anne herself explain where these came from.

After Midsummer


Anne Connolly was one of the stars of Luminate last year. Find out more about Anne and watch her read some more of her poetry in this previous post..

Too Old and Ugly to be Useful? Challenging Negative Representations of Older People

Has there ever been a golden age of ageing, or is that golden age now? In the past, representations of older people in literature, art, the media and everyday life have been highly diverse; stressing their positive roles in their families and communities as much as their frailty. As the numbers of older people grows, how can we promote and celebrate their positive contribution, and challenge the pervasive negative stereotypes of later life?

Find out more about the speakers and the British Academy here.

The next British Academy Debate The Best Years of our Lives? Body, Brain and Well-Being in Edinburgh on 29th April. Tickets are free and can be booked here.

Blue badge scheme – a valuable resource

Maureen McAllister is our guest blogger who tells us about the Arthritis Care Scotland campaign. There appear to be issues are arising from renewal applications for blue badges since a recent change in legislation:

The Blue Badge Scheme is an important service for people with severe mobility problems that enables badge holders to park close to where they need to go.  Having a badge can mean the difference between being able to attend appointments, work, volunteer and live independently, and being isolated in your badgeThe aim of the changes to legislation for existing Blue Badge holders and future applicants to the scheme is that they will benefit from the strengthening of the existing criteria which will ensure that the assessment process is rigorous and transparent.

However this process is having an effect on individuals living with fluctuating inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.  With the burden of proof on the applicant; to successfully communicate the effect of their condition, along with the anxiety that a mobility assessment can cause, many applicants are failing to satisfy these conditions.  At Arthritis Care Scotland we have seen an increase in individuals who have held a blue badge for many years who are now finding that their review application is not being renewed.

F is 49 she has had a Blue badge for several years.  As someone who lives with a chronic auto immune condition she finds walking any distance difficult.  The fluctuating and inflammatory nature of the condition means that she has periods where, through pain, fatigue and stiffness, the effort of walking often leaves her drained and unable to work.  Having a Blue Badge means she can park nearer to her place of work and confident that she is able to continue to work.  If F were to lose her badge she feels that her ability to live independently and continue to work would be in doubt.

Arthritis Care Scotland is collating information to establish how the changes to the blue badge procedures affect the 700,000 people in Scotland who live with arthritis.
In order to ascertain whether this is a widespread problem we need to hear from you.
If you have made a New or Renewal application for a Blue Badge since 2012, which has NOT been successful, then we would like to hear about your experience.  This will help us gather evidence needed for a report on our findings.  Your details will not be divulged to any other organisation.

To find out more and share your experience, please contact;
Contact Maureen McAllister
Telephone:  07825104972

Or Chris Waite
Telephone number:  0141 954 7776

Eating well

There are so many issues around eating for older people. If you end up on your own, do you bother with making yourself a healthy meal regularly? Can you get out to the shops to buy the ingredients? People are unable maybe to chew some foods and have health issues that require a specialised diet. Yet food supplied to older people is often bought in and one size fits all.

Age Concern Dundee shared with us what they have done with their Age Scotland grant funding to ensure that all their clients get regular, healthy meals that they enjoy …

Find out more about our work in Scotland’s communities.


Community transport provision shifts up a gear

Funding of £1m towards replacing vehicles for community transport operators was recently awarded to 29 organisations by the Scottish Government. John MacDonald, from the Community Transport Association (CTA),was involved in the management of the Fund and gives us his take.

StillWaitingSupport for transport services for older people was by far the biggest feature in the applications and there was particular demand from day centres for older people. All told there were 130 applications to the Fund and total funding of more than £4m was sought so the funding has only gone part of the way to helping with the problems older people have with transport.

The response to the Government’s Community Transport Vehicle Fund has highlighted the extent of the problem but has not solved it. It’s good news that we’ve been able to get another £1m into the sector, but it only touches the surface of the problems which older people in Scotland face with transport. We had dozens of applications from day centres and other centres for older people. They told us that if they weren’t providing transport then most of their clients would not be able to get to their centres and so the facilities would not be viable. It is fine to have first class day services but if people can’t get to them you have a major problem.

The successful applicants were mainly community transport operators who made wide community use of their vehicles. Though older people are the main users of these services for shopping, getting to NHS appointments, dial a ride, etc., it was unfortunately the case that day centres were not supported through the Fund. Many of these have vehicles which are past their best and have limited lifespans. When it comes to the point where they have to be scrapped, if a replacement vehicle is not in place then this presents a serious issue for the centres.

Community transport has risen up the political agenda over the past year, and Age Scotland’s continuing campaign on this – ‘Still Waiting’ – has played a key role in this. As part of its response to the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee’s inquiry into the future of community transport last year, the Scottish Government committed to carrying out research into the sector and, over the coming months the CTA will be carrying out a lot of this work.

Hopefully, the results of this research coupled with continued pressure will help us find a sustainable future for this vital service which underpins so many of the services in our communities.


Read more about Age Scotland’s Community Transport Campaign: Still Waiting (#still_waiting)

Find out about the impact that a Community Transport organisation has on peoples lives in this video and in The Scotsman.


Putting the FUN back in FUNdraising

Jamie Robertson, Commercial Director tells us about how David Urquhart Travel are putting the FUN back in FUNdraising for Age Scotland

Jamie Robertson, David Urquhart Travel

Jamie Robertson piles the Age Scotland van high with welcome donations

Ever since David Urquhart Travel started working with Age Scotland early last year, we’ve been thinking of ways to help raise money for the charity – and hopefully have some fun while doing so! To start with we ran a very special holiday in conjunction with Age Scotland – ‘David’s Winter Tonic’ at the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar. This was a great night away that was thoroughly enjoyed by all present – the perfect way to blow away the winter blues!

The staff in our East Kilbride office were keen to get involved and two of our hotels department (Linda Hughes and Clare McFadden) very kindly volunteered to distribute Age Scotland Charity Bags. We encouraged staff to have a post-Christmas clear out and were delighted with the response of 51 full bags! Everyone appreciated the chance to get rid of those unwanted Christmas gifts! We also ran a book sale during February which helped to raise money (and allowed for some bargains to be bought in the office). The fundraising culminated with our cake sale where the whole office participated in baking a variety of goodies as well as bringing in all manner of sweet treats. Let’s just say that it wasn’t a day for dieting! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and ate well, with some particularly impressive cakes on display.

All of these efforts helped us to raise almost £350 plus the charity bags and was a lot of fun for all of us and we know that the money will be put to good use. We’re already thinking of the next event and look forward to sharing the details with you!