The New Year is a time of resolutions. Whether you’re a stickler for sticking to them or often let standards slide after January, there’s no better time to effect change than the start of another year. And there’s no better way to make that change than by joining a U3A.
One of the best ways to stay positive is to surround yourself with friends, and meeting new people through the U3A is the perfect way to make new ones. You’ll try new things together, go on trips out together, and make strides towards improving your physical and psychological wellbeing in 2019.
The UK’s incarnation of the University of the Third Age was founded 35 years ago, inspired by a similar movement in France. The organisation has a strong focus on people in retirement or part-time employment who are no longer raising a family – people who now have time to devote themselves to learning for its own sake. Its core principles are to promote lifelong learning through self-help interest groups, which cover a wide range of subjects and take full advantage of the varied skillset of their members.
‘Learning Not Lonely’ research carried out by the U3A found that 3.7 million people aged over 65 live alone, and 41% of older people feel out of touch with modern life. Furthermore, 1 in 5 older people suffer from depression, which is often caused by isolation in the community – that’s where the U3A comes in.
Samantha Mauger, U3A National Chief Executive, said: ‘U3A members reported major benefits to being part of our learning model, feeling supported, learning new skills and combatting loneliness.’
Better yet, there are around 1,000 U3A groups nationwide, and over 400,000 members – so whatever your interests, you’re sure to find someone you get along with.
The Chorley area has various U3As on offer. Chorley’s U3A boasts 27 different interest groups, from beginners’ languages and genealogy to yoga and walking. The younger Leyland group, meanwhile, began in 2015 and currently offers 21 activities, including dining out, archery and sequence dancing.
With around 400 members, Chorley U3A meets on the fourth Monday of the month at St. George’s Church Hall in Chorley at 1:30pm. Guest speakers take to the stage for lectures and presentations on various topics of interest, while members can have a catch up with each other and the latest U3A news. General meetings are also a great opportunity to sign up for interest groups or gauge interest for starting your own.
‘Joining a U3A is a good opportunity to try something new, or have a go at something you fancied doing but never got round to when you were busy working’, says Carole Tate, Chairman of the Chorley U3A group. ‘All the groups we have running are popular. They appeal to different people in different ways – they’re energetic, thought provoking, offer opportunities to learn new skills or just have fun!’
U3A groups are entirely volunteer-run, andthere’s no limit to how many you can join.
‘You aren’t tied to turning up every week,’ Carole continues. ‘If family commitments take you away, it’s okay. You can fill your week or dip in when you want to – you start to build a group of friends and join them in another activity, crossing from one to the other when it suits. Many members become good friends outside the U3A.’
The University of the Third Age is certainly effective in reducing isolation by providing a vibrant, friendly environment for its members. Although it can be daunting to walk into a room full of strangers for the first time – especially if you’re on your own – members go above and beyond to welcome newbies into the fold, and U3A can be particularly effective for people without partners or who have been widowed.
‘I also find that joining U3A has opened up a lot of activities that I can participate in as a single person. I started U3A when I retired by attending the Yoga class, then the walking group,’ Carole adds. ‘One activity led to another and I found myself on the committee and now Chairing Chorley U3A!’
Annual membership to Chorley U3A costs £8, with small running charges per interest group to cover room hire and equipment.
Leyland U3A’s conception came after members of the local community decided travelling to Mawdesley or Chorley just wasn’t achievable for some people – so they set up their own.
General meetings are held on the second Wednesday of the month at 10:30am in the function room of Fox Lane Sports & Social Club in Leyland (PR25 1HB). Meetings provide a communal space for members to get to know each other and sign up for other groups, and for new members to officially join the U3A.
Along with their eclectic mix of interest groups, Leyland U3A offers various opportunities to get out and about. If you’ve got the travel bug, the Visits group offers a veritable feast of wanderlust-busting trips – from panto performances to historical days out, past trips have included the Anderton Boat Lift and the Southport Flower Show. If you’re lamenting your decision against travelling the world in your twenties, why not get out there and do it now with the U3A?
U3A also makes it easier for its members to get involved in local charities and projects. Regular volunteering opportunities and projects are advertised on the Leyland U3A website, including chances to help out with both hyper-local organisations such as Leyland In Bloom and bigger ones across the county.
Annual membership to Leyland U3A is £15.
A little further afield, Mawdesley U3A offers a massive list of groups to its members – 62 in total! Most notably dubbed a ‘youth club for grown-ups’, the U3A boasts over eight hundred regular attendees and is dedicated to bringing people with a zest for life together in a relaxing but stimulating environment. Members can get involved with everything from fun mathematics and wood carving to cycling or walking in foreign lands.
From the get-go, Mawdesley U3A provides a friendly face in the community. General meetings (or Community Mornings) are held every Wednesday between 10:15am and 11:45am at Mawdesley Village Hall, where new members can get involved or existing ones can join new groups. Visitors can also try taster sessions at the smaller group sessions before formally signing up to sample life in a U3A.
Joining a U3A really couldn’t be simpler. Just head down to one of the general meetings or coffee mornings of your chosen area and make yourself known to the friendly team! Alternatively, you can contact the U3A via their website – if you’re interested in a particular group, contact details can usually be found in the ‘Groups’ section.
If you’re sick of trying and failing to stick to the same tired New Year’s resolutions, give the U3A a go this January. You never know – it might just change your life.