Autumn 2014

Barbara Lewis

Claire Keatinge

U3A Celebrates Growth at Autumn Meeting

The University of the Third Age (U3A) has been growing fast in Northern Ireland, with over 6,000 members among the older community in Northern Ireland and this success was celebrated at their recent Autumn Regional Meeting in Grosvenor Hall Belfast.  U3A is a learning and social organisation open to all retired or semi-retired men and women, recognising the talents of older people and allowing them to meet others with similar interests and to share their knowledge and skills.  There are now 23 U3As across Northern Ireland, ranging in size from 35 to over 1,000 members.  Each U3A has its own programme of learning, health and social activities for its members and they come together twice a year in a regional meeting.

The October meeting began with a talk by Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People, who earlier this month issued a report revealing the economic value of the positive contributions made by older people.  In her talk, the Commissioner outlined the work of her organisation and congratulated U3A for its significant contribution to Life Long Learning.

The theme for the second part of the meeting on 23rd October was Extending Inter-U3A Communication and Co-operation.  For a number of years there have been two highly successful annual inter-U3A days, one a “Singfest” with choirs from around the country and the other a bridge tournament, while in 2014 a two day summer school was held in the premises of U3A Foyle.   Also individual U3As have met and shared events on a one to one basis, in some cases with U3As from GB and from the Republic.  Discussion on how to extend this list began with an inspirational talk by Barbara Lewis, the Chairman of the Third Age Trust – the national support and advisory body for all U3As in the UK, where there are 944 U3As with over 340,000 members.  In the lively discussion which followed many new ideas were thrown into the mix to be taken forward in the coming months.

Stuart Pollard, U3A Regional Trustee, said “U3A membership is growing because our activities make a real difference to retirees’ lives and new members are always welcomed.  In the coming months we are looking forward to starting up more new U3As and I would welcome hearing from anyone who would like to see a U3A formed in their area.”

The format of the day was:

10.30 – 11.00         Tea/coffee and scone

11.00 – 11.45         Talk by Claire Keatinge

11.45 – 12.45         Talk by Barbara Lewis

12.45 – 13.45         Lunch

13.45 – 14.30         Group discussion on how to extend inter-U3A communication and co-operation

14.30 – 15.15          Reports from discussion groups and response to these

15.15                         Formal meeting ends,   Chance to mingle                .