MEMBERS of an Inverness project have found themselves cast as film stars as part of the Reach Out campaign to tackle loneliness and social isolation.
To mark Men's Health Week, Inverness Men's Shed joined forces with NHS Highland to produce a video that shows how joining other like-minded people can help men get back some of the enthusiasm for life which health problems, bereavement or age may have taken away.
The video's message chimes with work being carried out under the Reach Out campaign, launched by the health authority and supported by The Inverness Courier to raise awareness of the issues.
Alan Michael, co-ordinator of Friendship Services, a network of organisations that provide social opportunities for people, was involved in setting up the Inverness Men's Shed which brings together men, mostly over the age of 50, for a blether or to take up new hobbies and pursuits. The project's growing popularity is evidence that belonging to an active social group can keep men healthier and happier for longer.
"Tackling loneliness and isolation is not rocket science," Mr Michael said. "It's easy to lose motivation if you are sitting at home all day but if you get out and take part in an activity or do things for others it can re-energise your life."
Not having anyone to talk to regularly can be lonely and isolating and can lead to serious issues from heart disease to anxiety and depression. One in five men die before they reach 65 and one in three encounter mental health issues.
Mr Michael said many members of the group felt there was nothing quite like the Men's Shed. "The support they get is key, otherwise they would be vegetating on the sofa in front of the telly," he said.
"Our members were happy to lend support to the 'Reach Out' campaign by taking part in the video to show that increasing wellbeing and happiness can be as simple as a phone call or giving people the space and opportunity to get together and make friends," he said.
"The video is one way of helping us to spread to message the Shed promotes that getting older doesn't have to mean being sad and alone.
"Inverness Men's Shed recognised the need for people to have an easy way to find out activities that were going on locally so we've launched an online directory of things to do called Keep Active, offering lots of socialising and friendship opportunities."
Appearing in the video and proving you are never too old to learn is 93-year-old Tav Celli who, with the help of other Shed members, is learning to use his iPad to keep in touch with relatives abroad.
"I had an interest in computing but I wasn't really getting anywhere," Mr Celli said. "Now, getting help has made a huge difference. I'm still learning but I now email and communicate with my nieces in Italy and Portugal."
NHS Highland consultant cardiologist, Professor Steve Leslie supports the work of groups like the Men's Shed.
"Having a condition can be a lonely and isolating experience," he said. "Not being able to get out can limit your social life and make you retreat into your shell. Men's Shed is invaluable in getting older men to socialise again."
* The Inverness Men's Shed YouTube video can be seen at https://youtu.be/KQoSz54uBaU
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