03/17/2016 20:36 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 01:12 EDT

'Men's Shed' in Kelowna helps older men keep busy and fight isolation

Every Tuesday morning at a seniors residence in Kelowna, a group of older men gather for a chat over coffee, or head over to a nearby woodwork shop to finish a hobby they started during the group's hobby and craft afternoons held each Thursday.

The men are part of a "Men's Shed" — a type of non-profit organization that originated in Australia to give the opportunity for older men to avoid isolation, find new interests and socialize and work on activities along other men.

"Men, when they retire, their identity is their job: I used to be Joe the carpenter, now I'm Joe the question mark," said Art Post, one of the founding members of the Okanagan Men's Shed.

"The buddies you make at work have moved on, school buddies are gone, and family moves on, and pretty soon the guy is sitting there looking at the TV and wondering what happened."

The Okanagan Men's Shed was one of the first of its kind in Canada when it formed in 2013, and they held an open house on March 17 at Hawthorn Park Retirement Home, as part of UBC Okanagan's Embrace Aging Month.

Post said he had the idea to start the group came from his son, whose father-in-law lives in Melbourne and who was directed to a local men's shed after his wife passed away from an illness.

He said that after his son's father-in-law got involved with the local men's shed, his life turned around — and that's something he has seen in his own group

Combating isolation

Kenneth Burger, who has now been involved with the group for close to two years, said he doesn't have any family in the area, so joined because he needed "some camaraderie to help my boredom."

"I got fairly depressed at one time so I started going to a therapist … and this whole set-up has really brought me through the depression and everything else."

Post said the Australian government has realized the benefit of men's sheds, and said it recently invested millions of dollars into the men's shed programs.

"They figure it's money well spent. They estimate they are saving about 75,000 lives a year from this isolation-depression-suicide cycle," he said.

"Just by getting people involved, giving them another purpose, another sense of something to do, it breaks that isolation."

Gary Bozek, a member who moved to Kelowna six months ago, said the men chat, teach each other skills and also do projects in the community.

"This morning we're planning after coffee to work on a community project. There's some shelves we're building for Hawthorne [Park Retirement Home]. That's the kind of thing we do," he said.

"We take the tired out of retired."

With files from CBC's Radio West and Jaimie Kehler

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Okanagan Men's Shed helps older men keep busy and social to combat isolation