City of Burnside Commonwealth Home Support Programme
Targeted Men’s Social Inclusion Program
City of Burnside Commonwealth Home Support Programme
Home care - Metropolitan, 80 + beds
Autonomy and choice, Communication and engagement, Social participation
About the program
This program recognises research around ageing as a gendered process with associated perceived challenges to masculinity – but moves beyond the ubiquitous ‘Men’s Shed’ model of social inclusion.
It acknowledges not all older men are ‘blokey’, like to work with their hands, or even enjoy socialising in a ‘shed’ environment.
By offering a broad range of options (including a highly successful Men’s Shed), the program provides older men with choice about how they do their socialising – and, by including them in program planning, also transfers control of interactions.
Key elements are weekly Men’s Breakfasts and fortnightly Gent’s Day Out bus trips. These are supported by Men’s Cooking Classes and a Men Only group in a Respite, Recreation and Revitalisation Program. Additionally, male interest activities are specifically included in ‘Come and Try’ health and wellbeing programs – and attract gender balance participation (contrary to the usual significant imbalance in centre-based social activities).
The program is innovative because it helps older men retain their sense of identity – particularly those from professional and other white-collar career backgrounds – who may feel they sacrifice that identity in a Men’s Shed environment in order to access male company and new friendships.
What we did
Stakeholder engagement in the design and planning of the program was a critical success factor and is a major focus in evaluation and continuous improvement.
An initial focus group sought input for specific activities to attract socially isolated older men not currently participating in the Men’s Shed or other social inclusion programs. Suggestions included a men-only breakfast and bus trips to venues that were interesting, stimulating and increased knowledge.
After funding was secured through the (former) HACC Program, a mail-out to more than 650 aged care clients and other community members sought suggestions for the Gent’s Day Out schedule and for appealing male-oriented activities for the Come and Try health and well-being schedule.
Flyers, posters and direct contact through other services promote all activities and engagement is sustained through the use of evaluation forms to identify any potential for improvement and preferred new activities.
Held in a baseball clubroom, the meal is catered, with the menu developed in consultation with consumers to be nutritionally balanced, but also the type of breakfast they want to eat. Breakfasts are held every Monday morning between 8.30am and 10.30am and cost $5, with transport provided to and from the venue as required.
Gent’s day out
Consumer suggestions for the Gents Day Out are investigated for viability, affordability and health and safety (while allowing for some dignity of risk as appropriate, including hotel meals). Initially these were monthly outings for a maximum of 25 men, but proved to be so popular the program adapted to become a fortnightly outing to accommodate as many men as possible.
The bus is provided at no cost to consumers and meals are planned at venues that offer inexpensive bistro style food, which participants select and purchase themselves. There is opportunity for co-payments (in terms of entry fees) to be waived or reduced for financially disadvantaged consumers. Transport is provided to and from the departure point as required.
Outings have included a Treasury Building tour; SA Metro Fire Station Tour; tour of Desalination Plant; tour of the new Adelaide Oval stadium and lunch at the on-site café; the University of South Australia planetarium and various museums such as the Birdwood Motor Museum and Southern Fleurieu Historical Museum. Outings have also included a cruise on the Captain Proud Paddle Steamer and the ABC Broadcasting Station.
Men’s cooking classes
Held several times a year for up to six men in each group. The two-hour classes run for six weeks and are subsidised to cost $10 each week including food, with meals eaten together at the end of the session. Classes are usually very basic (for those with little cooking experience), but can move to an intermediate level depending on consumer interest. The classes are run by a qualified chef in a community centre with a commercial kitchen approved for the purpose by the relevant authority.
‘Come and try’
The Come and Try health and well being program has a rotation of activities which each run for a four to six week period with appropriate instructors. A co-payment of $5 each session includes materials used.
Why we did it
Council has run a highly successful Men’s Shed since 2006 which involves up to 60 older men each year across six groups, each with a specific focus including cultural diversity and memory loss.
Research by the Men’s Health Information and Research Centre (MHIRC) in 2009 highlighted that older men are more vulnerable than women to loneliness and isolation (and consequent health impacts) due to smaller social networks and weaker interpersonal connections – yet noted significant reverse imbalance in uptake of centre-based social activity. This supported Council’s own research and surveys conducted across more than 300 aged care clients in 2009 and 2013.
However, there were intrinsic challenges to more fully involving local older men in ‘usual’ male social inclusion programs. The area’s socio-demographic profile shows more than half (54%) of residents have managerial or professional career backgrounds (much higher than state and national averages of 32.2% and 34.2%) and the proportion with university qualifications more than double the national or state averages (39.4% against 17.4% and 14.5%).
Given the MHRIC research identified most male friendships were formed with career peers, Council needed to develop male social inclusion activities that could better match the community profile.
Initially, additional activities were built into the Men’s Shed and the Respite, Recreation and Revitalisation (3Rs) program, but review as part of continuous quality improvement identified the setting needed to change to attract socially isolated men who wanted male friendships matched to their own identity. The Targeted Men’s Social Inclusion Program is responsive to that need.
Who worked with us
The principal partners in this program are the consumers. Evaluation forms are taken seriously and guide which venues, outings or activities are offered again to others, while suggestions for new destinations impact future scheduling. Consumers are also very much part of the engagement team and help to attract newcomers by describing their experiences to others.
In the early stages of program design, the coordinator consulted with other councils and service providers about their male-oriented social inclusion programs and their experience in working with socially isolated older men not interested in a Men’s Shed Program. Two neighbouring councils promote the Men’s Breakfast, Gent’s Day Out and Men’s Shed to their residents and are involved on a Steering Committee for the Men’s Shed.
The baseball club that hosts the Men’s Breakfast is a key partner and the program works with a number of community-based organisations to host consumers as part of the Gent’s Day Out schedule. Often venues open specifically for the bus tour.
Council’s community transport program is a key partner.
What we learned
The key lesson from the success of the Targeted Men’s Social Inclusion Program is that the ageing process is not only differentiated by gender, but also within genders. Quality social inclusion for older men requires moving a mindset that says all men will be happy to find their social connectedness in a Men’s Shed. Most quality advocates will take account of an individual’s culture, values, personal experience and immediate concerns but sometimes, in that, career backgrounds, education and employment skills are overlooked.
This targeted program has embraced those differences in a program co-designed by consumers according to their individual and group preferences. Outcomes have been significant.
More than two years after the first Men’s Breakfast, the weekly event continues to attract 30-35 older men each week and there are more than 75 regular attendees.
The first Gents Day Out progressed from a monthly to fortnightly event within six months to accommodate demand. More than 100 older men participate in the outings and, more than two years later, the program averages 36 at any one venue.
The first group in the Come and Try health and wellbeing program was held on 30 April 2014. While courses are not exclusively for men, the introduction of the other men’s social inclusion activities has proven to be a catalyst in encouraging men to try this program. From an initial female dominated participation (as with most centre-based social activities) this initiative now sees gender balance in activities such as golf (52% male); iPad/tablet courses (53% male) and chess classes (60% male).
There is also consumer transfer between the new programs and the Men’s Shed. More than one-half (55%) of Men’s Shed consumers have attended the Gent’s Day Out program; almost one-third (31%) have attended the Men’s Breakfast; and almost one-quarter (23%) have attended both – while the profile of Men’s Shed consumers now includes former academics, marketing executives, psychologists, solicitors, accountants, a criminology/law academic and a mental health executive.
This demonstrates that taking care to ensure the introductory setting and type of social activity is matched to consumers’ identity, can give older men the confidence to explore other options, step outside their comfort zone, and therefore broaden their social experience and social networks.
There is also anecdotal evidence that consumers are extending their social interactions external to programs. This occurs through regular car-pooling and impromptu transport support for co-consumers; visiting (either individually or as a small group) co-consumers who become ill and are unable to attend for any length of time; visiting as a small group a co-consumer who moved into residential care; sending ‘Get Well’ or condolence cards to each other; occasionally arranging an outing together or visiting each other’s home; helping each other with home maintenance tasks; and supporting group members at times of grief by attending funerals etc.
One consumer described how the need to shower, dress and shave to attend the Men’s Breakfast program each week had a direct impact on his mental health – and now he makes an effort to do this on other days even when he isn’t going out.
Mental health impacts are evident in written comments on survey responses:
“The pleasure of being able to look out the bus windows, instead of the tension of driving myself, and have a meal out is enormous – and is still there days after the outing.”
“I do not drive and to travel on the bus trips to various places of interest gives me much pleasure.”
Many participants feel they have benefited from talking about past traumas such as war experiences, loss of a partner or children and accidents or strokes which have left them with lasting impacts. At least one was moved to seek formal counselling once he understood how talking about his mental health issues helped him. Another spoke about his depression and found some relief that others felt that way too.
There is anecdotal evidence of men discussing shared health issues and of one man who was prompted to a timely consultation with a medical practitioner following one of these discussions.
Broad social connectedness outcomes are evident from watching interactions between the men and also from comments received on feedback forms.
These forms will be a key component in continuous quality improvement, supported by direct discussion with consumers during participation and community forums that identify program awareness with other older men, carers and advocates in the area.
More information on this program:
Angela Morrison, firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (08) 8366 4176