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U3A comes of age!

This week there were reports on new evidence that keeping the brain active is a key aspect in helping to delay the onset of dementia.

So if you are not already signed up, have you thought about the U3A – the University of the Third Age?

The word university might put you off, after all while there are some amazing people around undertaking advanced university courses, serious study at our age is definitely not for everyone.

But the U3A couldn’t be further from an official degree course. The whole idea is yes, to keep your brain active and learn new things – but the concept is to offer it all in a very social, friendly and enjoyable way and to ensure everyone has a lot of fun. Even better, the U3A is bound to offer some things you are interested in – in fact there are hundreds of different subjects from art, languages, singing, history and philosophy to more practical skills such as computing, photography and Asian cooking. Then there are groups for walking, local history, country dancing – even a mah-jong and a knit and natter group. There are groups that just meet up to go out to gardens, castles and interesting places and groups that are tea tasters.

How can this work? Because it is all based on using the skills, knowledge and experience of fellow members. The members of each group – and there are groups all over the country – comprise people with a wide and diverse range of knowledge, experience and skills that come with a lifetime of living. People with expertise in an area offer to teach or talk about them to others – that is how the whole system works.

Retired and semi-retired people simply meet in a local place to learn or share new experiences together, not for qualifications but for its own reward: the sheer joy of discovery!

The U3A is an international organization but in the UK it is supported by a national organization, the Third Age Trust. This is a limited company and a registered charity and it underpins the work of the local U3As by providing support to the groups’ management committees and also to individual members when needed. It also helps in the development of new U3As across the UK. But under that, every group is run by its own members – as far as we know the U3A is the only national education organization in the UK run entirely by its own members.

The movement is growing fast now, with around 50 new U3As opening every year and there is bound to be one near you.

There is lots more on the official U3A website at http://www.u3a.org.uk

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