73-year-old ‘student’ still taking classes with University of the Third Age

Gazette & Herald: At the last meeting of the Ryedale branch of U3A, from left, committee member Charles Weston, guest speaker Robin Lidster and chairman Marjorie Walker At the last meeting of the Ryedale branch of U3A, from left, committee member Charles Weston, guest speaker Robin Lidster and chairman Marjorie Walker

HANNAH BRYAN joins the “youngsters” of the Ryedale branch of the U3A

“We all want to be kept young.” It would be hard to argue with what 70-year-old Charles Weston is telling me and in a packed out Kirby Misperton hall of about 100 people, it seems they all share the same view.

They have found a way of doing that though because everyone in the hall waiting to hear speaker Robin Lidster deliver his talk on “A Century of Picture Postcards” has joined the University of the Third Age (U3A).

“It keeps you young in a way which is really good,” Charles tells me. “It’s very much an organic organisation because the success of it depends on its members. People who are retired often wish to use their brains still, or they have hobbies they wish to pursue, activities or particular interests.”

The national organisation has about 40,000 members and about 400 of those are in the Ryedale branch, meeting each month to listen to guest speakers and, in their own time, organising meetings with like-minded people who want to pursue the same hobbies.

From Scottish country dancing and wine appreciation to local history and walking groups, whatever the interest there is something for everyone. “It’s a case of if someone wants to start a French speaking group for example, we will publish it in the meeting and our newsletter and then they make the plans for it and they will become an affiliated group to the branch.”

Charles has been a member of the Ryedale U3A group for about four years and was the vice- chairman in 2013. He has also been involved in the film group where they meet once a month and watch classical films.

“Most people want to remain active when they retire and, because of that, this was set up with a view to encouraging people to play an active part in the community,” says Charles.

Ken Chadwick, a former chairman of the group, set up the classical music concerts group during his 19 years as part of the branch. With just under 10 members, like other groups in the branch they meet once a month to share their passion for music.

Ken says: “I think it’s a wonderful organisation for people our age to be able to be a part of. It definitely keeps you young, I’m 73, but I feel 53.”

Having just celebrated the 20th anniversary with guest speaker – chairwoman of the U3A National, Barbara Lewis – giving a talk entitled “Learn, Laugh and Live”, the Ryedale branch of the U3A has some exciting times ahead.

Norton College has agreed to try a six-week course in the sixth-form beginning today (Wednesday), which aims to bring the younger and older generations together.

U3A members will be able to choose topics from Skyping, using Smartphones or ipads to social media and using online shopping facilities, all shown to them by the students of the college.

They are certainly being kept young, that is for sure.

Annual membership of Ryedale U3A is £14 for one or £20 for two people living at the same address.

For information about joining, visit www.u3asites.org.uk/ryedale

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