Alby Powerlett is almost 90, likes “good tucker” and, to his own mild surprise, has developed an appetite for learning how to cook for the first time.
It’s simple, really, he says of his new enthusiasm for the kitchen: “I don’t want to eat rubbish tucker.”
“I’m only really a pepper-and-salt man … so it’s educating me,” he said.
Mr Powerlett is among men taking part in a pilot program that teaches participants how to take care of themselves.
They learn about cooking, nutrition and exercise.
Care provider Home Instead is trialling the pilot program at the Maroochydore Men’s Shed on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Mr Powerlett, a father of 10, married again after the death of his first wife but lives on his own.
“My wife lives in Bli Bli and I live in Buderim, so it works out beaut,” he said.
“There’s a lot of blokes on the coast here that are on their own.”
Home Instead director Falon Fredrickson said the initiative was born out of a desire to combat social isolation, “a real issue for a lot of our clients, especially as we age”.
“We wanted to really look for something that was going to bring people together, but also really highlight healthy ageing and healthy eating,” he said.
As well as learning how to prepare meals, a dietician educates the men about healthy eating and nutrition so they can better look after themselves at home.
“What we hope to do is get the people who are participating in the sessions to bring recipes along with them and have them really involved in that cooking process.
“So it’s not just teaching them how to cook recipes that are simple, but also things that they love that they maybe are scared of doing at home.”
She said the pilot has been “excellent” and would continue at the Maroochydore Men’s Shed for 12 months, with the possibility of expanding through the region and nationally.
‘Basic’ sessions win men over
Anne Degaris runs the cooking demonstrations and supplies the men with recipes at the end of the session.
“A lot of them have just lost their wives and their wives did most of the cooking, so they’re really at a loss.” she said.
“The last time we did eggs and I showed them how to do frittatas with eggs and milk and whatever’s in the fridge.
This time was chicken, next time I’ll be tackling mince.”
Colin Henson, 69, has lived on his own for seven years and proudly attempted the frittata at home.
“I just live on my own and was looking for some more healthy options.
“I’m a very basic eater but I do like to eat nice food. Something different and easy to cook.”
President of the Maroochydore Men’s Shed Graeme Giles, 76, is still proudly married and keen to learn how he can bring more to the table.
“Though I hope I have supported my wife quite well over the years in preparing meals.
“Now it will add to my limited amount of skills on cooking that I have got and I hope to build on them over the coming 12 months or so.”
Mr Giles said cookbooks were too complicated but learning from the non-judgmental Men’s Shed cooking sessions was “pretty good”.
“And if you come to a Men’s Shed … you’ll feel 10 years younger anyway because you’ve got a different outlook on life after enjoying camaraderie around the shed and learning a few other skills as well,” he said.