A Conversation - Gail Mendoza & 2Way FM Temp Guy

Temp Guy

I believe we do have Gail on the phone.

Hello, Gail?

Gail

Good morning.

Temp Guy

Glad to finally meet you and have a chat. Now what is U3A?

Gail

Well, U3A is a worldwide not-for-profit organization run by and for retirees and it aims to offer older people in our community low cost educational, leisure and social activities in a relaxed and friendly setting.

Gail

Now U3A was founded in France in 1973 and since then spread to lots of countries around the world, such as Australia. And we also have other U3As in towns near us like Coffs, Armidale, Taree and Dorrigo, but no matter where they're located, U3As everywhere are based on the idea that older people have the skills and knowledge acquired over their lifetimes to provide learning opportunities, intellectual stimulation, and social interaction with others in the same age group.

Temp Guy

How long has it been operating in the Port Macquarie Hastings region.

Gail

Well, since 2004. Currently our numbers are more than 500 and all from the local Port Macquarie Hastings area.

Temp Guy

What is the meaning of U3A?

Gail

Well, U3A is shorthand for university of the third age. Now U3A is not a university as we understand it in its modern sense, but the term is used in its original sense. That is, it's a community of people, teaching and learning together. It's not a university or a school. At U3A there are no exams, no HECS fees, no diplomas awarded to anyone.

So 3A in U3A, stands for third age and signifies that most U3A members are in their third age of life. That is after childhood and after the completion of our working lives. During our working lives, seniors have taken on many different jobs and followed diverse career paths where we needed to keep learning, to pass on skills and knowledge to other people, and to develop new interests and skills ourselves, and to mix with people from different walks of life. So why should all that stop when our working lives are over?

Temp Guy

And what are the benefits of U3A for older people in our area?

Gail

Well, I see the benefits falling into 3 categories. Firstly, the benefit of mental or intellectual stimulation. Now, it's well accepted that healthy brains continue to need stimulation, through learning new things or developing new skills and exchanging ideas with other people.

Second, we are offering members opportunities to keep physically active as we get older, so that needs no explanation. I'm sure our listeners would agree with that.

And thirdly - the benefit of enjoying friendly social interactions with others. You cannot underestimate the value of maintaining social connectedness with others in our senior years, as it is so very important. Isolation and loneliness can often arise, perhaps as a result of simply retiring from the workforce, or perhaps losing a partner, or when our families get busy with their own lives. So these feelings experienced by older people often reduce their quality of life. So U3A has a beneficial effect in providing opportunities to meet other people, develop new friendships and learn new things. And the bottom line is, U3A increases the enjoyment of life for seniors and so promotes healthy ageing.

Temp Guy

What are the qualifications does a person need to become a member of U3A?

Gail

Well, none, absolutely none. Membership is offered to people who are retired or semi-retired and they usually over the age of 55. But it's important to say there is no upper age limit. There are currently nineteen Port Macquarie Hastings U3A members who are over the age of 90 and who are actively engaged in our programs.

Temp Guy

As we're starting to run out of time, but what are some of the courses on offer at the U3A?

Gail

Ah, well, classroom-based courses include Australian history or music appreciation, the planet Earth, the Kings and Queens of England, and languages such as French for travelers and Latin, to name just a few. But there are other activities besides taking classes that people might enjoy as well, and these are creative pursuits such as acrylic painting or textile art, photography and card making, and there's also many leisure activities such as exercise classes, croquet, or pétanque; you could join the U3A International Dance Group that locals are probably very familiar with already. You could practice relaxation and meditation, yoga, or Tai chi. Or you could play mahjong or be entertained at the movie shows, and perhaps join in the trivia quizzes. If I can just say, we have a fantastic U3A Choir based in Laurieton and their next performance is this coming Friday at the Laurieton Hall, and that's always a very enjoyable afternoon. And perhaps people thinking about joining U3A might just simply like to enjoy social events like Christmas dinners or the Melbourne Cup lunches that we have.

Temp Guy

As we're running out of time, where can people get more information on U3A?

Gail

Well, they can go to our website, which is www.pmhu3a.org.au, or e-mail, you can send a message to the office which is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Or they could ring the office on 6584 4192 during term time, so someone will be there from the 20th of July.

Temp Guy

Thank you, Gail. We've been speaking with Gail Mendoza from the Port Macquarie Hastings U3A about U3A’s many opportunities for older people. And once again that telephone number is 6584 4192.