"Those who teach shall also learn and those who learn shall also teach
This became the mantra of Peter Laslett when he launched the University of the Third Age (U3A) in Britain in the early 1980s, after he had recognised that retired people, after a lifetime of experience, collectively must have acquired a vast amount of knowledge. His vision for the U3A in Britain was for groups of people to get together to learn about a common interest or topics but, rather than having a single teacher, each group would be organised by a group leader or convenor to co-ordinate and help guide the efforts and studies of a group’s members.
However, the name The University of the Third Age
is, perhaps, a little misleading. Yes, while each U3A branch is autonomous, all are affiliated to a national organisation whose remit is to encourage the setting up of local self-help, self-managed, self-financing, lifelong-learning co-operatives, whose members, typically, are older people no longer in full time work but who are still actively seeking to participate in shared learning experiences and activities. But not for qualifications, it has to be stressed. Rather, emphasis for our members is the personal satisfaction that comes from broadening ones knowledge and learning, whatever one’s age may be.
After ten years’ membership of Canterbury U3A, in 1992 some members living in Thanet decided to set up our own independent branch. Membership rose steadily and now numbers more than 500. Hardly surprising, given the impressive wide range of courses and activities that now regularly take place under the aegis of the branch. Every U3A is autonomous and different, and sure enough Thanet U3A has developed its own identity.
Like most U3A’s, we operate more than forty on-going thriving interest groups, ranging from book circles to gardening and card-playing groups, plus providing many other learning and recreational opportunities. But what makes our Thanet U3A a little unusual is the number of small group short courses we run. Eighteen such courses will run in the New Year, covering a wide range of topics, including literature, history, science, music (classical and Blues), Thanet (history and geography), plus intriguing topics such as “Colour – What is it” and “Chairobics” (an ever popular course of seated exercises for the not so mobile). Most popular of all, though, is our Country Dancing Group which meets every week.
Bi-monthly talks, given by high quality speakers, are preceded by an opportunity to socialise, and regular coach trips throughout the year are organised to places and events of cultural interest (most recently to the Mary Rose in Portsmouth). While the U3A ethos of shared learning opportunities is our main raison d’être, we also value our comprehensive programme of social activities - the summer Strawberry Garden Party, Murder Mystery evenings, quizzes and performances of dramatic readings to name just a few examples. In the autumn, four films (linked in some way to books) are shown exclusively to our members at the Palace Cinema in Broadstairs. Also well-supported are the convivial gatherings of the Lunch Club in various local restaurants and the very popular Christmas Lunch all of which are organised by members Mike Baker and Geraldine Stone.
That’s why with so much going on, with so many life-enhancing opportunities available to our members, we are proud to belong to Thanet’s thriving U3A. Proud, but not complacent, for we are constantly on the lookout for new avenues to explore and to recruit new members who bring fresh ideas to enhance our programmes and range of activities. For details of how to join and to discover the full range of learning and recreational opportunities, please consult our Thanet U3A website, www.u3asites.org.uk
or call 01843 228809.