Promoting lifelong learning is the key to achieving good health, wellbeing and happiness as we age. A stimulated mind promotes a healthy brain, so when challenged and stimulated, we can help to retain mental alertness and help the brain to grow new connections and pathways.
There are now countless opportunities available to continue learning as we age. One example of this is through the University of the Third Age, known as ‘U3A’. In the UK, there are currently 1,046 local U3As with over 439,000 members. This national network of learning groups is continuing to grow every day, where people in their ‘third age’ – retired or semi-retired – can share knowledge, skills and interests. U3A began in 1982 as a learner-led concept by the three founders Peter Lazlett, Eric Midwinter and Michael Young. With no exams, U3A prides itself on learning for fun and aims to encourage groups of people in their third age to come together and continue their enjoyment of learning in subjects that are of interest to them.
Learning new skills.
There are a variety of different learning opportunities available with U3A, including arts, history, literature and language, crafts, gardening, photography and digital technology skills. The accessibility of U3A is also appealing to many. Classes can be held in various locations and there is also the option of Virtual U3A. This enables learning to be available online and provides a discussion forum for people around the world.
U3A groups are extremely flexible. Groups can choose where to meet, which could be a person’s home, local library or community centre. This enables learners to explore new environments or become immersed in the local community and have the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience whilst taking part in new discussions. All of which provide individuals with confidence.
For those in the third age, choosing to study is as much about the social aspect as it is the learning experience. Learning in groups presents an opportunity to meet new people and make friends who share similar interests or have the same lifestyles. It also offers the chance to travel, participate in trips and engage in stimulating discussions. These learning opportunities enable people to expand their horizons and re-engage with their community.
Feeling valued and enjoying life.
The importance of cognitive stimulation as we age is vital. According to Chris Bamford, Guild Living’s own Care Operations Director, “cognitive health is something we should work in the same way as we do physically with other parts of the body through exercise and activity“. Ensuring that lifelong learning has a place in our lives helps to provide a continued sense of personal empowerment and increased self-esteem.
Continuing to learn and challenge oneself in the third age is vitally important to enhance the quality of life. It helps to develop natural abilities, immerses us in the wonders of life, stimulates natural curiosity about the world, increases wisdom, enables individuals to use their experiences to make the world a better place, and helps them face the inevitable changes in society. Ageing certainly does not mean that we cannot continue to learn and discover new things!
To find out how you can get involved in lifelong learning through the U3A, click here.