The U3A (University of the Third Age) has released research today which details a sustainable and positive approach to ageing built on group learning, skill sharing and volunteering.
The report Living Life, Extending Horizons, Challenging Conventions is based on the findings of a literature review, together with the results of a member survey and a series of focus groups around the country.
Sam Mauger, Chief Executive of the Third Age Trust (which supports U3As in the UK) said, “We think it is time to move away from the current public debate on ageing which is largely predicated on a deficit and dependency approach.
“The evidence from this research demonstrates the value of mutual aid and of reciprocity to confidence, self-esteem, and wellbeing.
“The U3A model is low-cost, defined by participants, and learner-led. It is not dependent on state funding; it has a life and existence of its own.
“More importantly this report demonstrates the value of communities of interest which are not defined by age, or by past experience, but instead are defined by the experiences still to be explored”.
U3A members reported major benefits to being part of the U3A learning model in terms of confidence, combatting loneliness, feeling supported in new communities, learning new skills and, perhaps most important of all, feeling valued and enjoying life.
Kelvin Rushworth from Wooler U3A in Northumberland said, “After my wife died of a brain tumour, I began the next phase of my life. For me, adjusting to living alone in a new area had many challenges. There is no doubt that U3A provides a wonderful, welcoming learning network: kindred spirits and friends galore!”
There are currently 1,030 U3As in the country with more opening all the time. Each U3A is a charity in its own right and hosts hundreds of interest groups chosen and run by the members, for the members.
Subjects cover a wide range of areas including architecture, Biology to Yoga, Zoology and everything in between. There are around 10,000 interest groups taking place in the UK every week.
U3A national chairman Pam Jones, who celebrated her 80th birthday this year, said, “Members often call U3A a life-saver. If their circumstances change with retirement or losing a loved one, it brought meaning and purpose to their life. U3A is a community and a wonderful organisation”.