WITH an aging population and time on their hands some retirees are hitting the road (grey nomads), others have time for sport and an increasing number are studying, and large portion of these ‘students’ are turning to the University of the Third Age (U3A). While to some U3A may sound like some sort of strange cult it is basically a ‘learning cooperative’ of older people who get together to help each other in a learning/social experience. Vice President Jack Engwerda said U3A commenced in Ballarat in 1987. He joined three years ago after winding up a business he had run in Ballarat for many years.
“I wanted to do some study and my son, who lives in Brisbane, suggested U3A,” Mr Engwerda said. “You don’t need to go to university, it’s on your terms and you are not obliged, you can go as you like
“My background is the factory and people who really started this off were exteachers, which is rather interesting because they have a slightly different outlook on life.”
Mr Engwerda added it was a fantastic organisation and he was more than happy with the courses that he had participated in, so much so that is tutoring a class this year on English History. “I have always approached life that I want to give something back. Ballarat has been kind to me in many ways,” he said. “When you run a business you really don’t have much time for anything else, I was always preoccupied with everything involved in business and now it’s good to be able to do things that I enjoy.”
Mr Engwerda added that the Ballarat branch of U3A has around 700 members. “We charge people $50 a year to attend as many courses as they like,” he said.
“What this does is it gets a lot of older folk out of their homes, people who are on their own, or those who just want to learn something new and meet new people. “I belong to a choir and I think the average age is about 80, and it’s fantastic, good camaraderie but our biggest class is the philosophy class and our tutor is 84 years old.”
All the tutors are volunteers and the majority of classes take place at G Place, the former Golden Point Primary School. There are over 60 courses currently available to choose from including computers, learning a foreign language, poetry, woodwork, classic cinema, jewellery making, scrabble, book club and the list goes on.
There is just about something for everyone and for once, I can’t wait until I am old enough to join.