by Chris Tobin
While many clubs and organisations struggle these days to find members, that is not the case for the U3As (University of the Third Age) around South Canterbury.
The programmes, for those in the “third age of life”, are booming and have lists of people waiting to join.
Temuka couple Trevor and Elizabeth Norton had hoped to join one of the organisations, either in Geraldine or Timaru, after relocating from Oamaru.
“We joined U3A in Oamaru at its inception in Oamaru 19 years ago,” Mrs Norton said.
“We were told there are over 100 on the waiting list in Timaru, and Geraldine is now only open to Geraldine residents.”
They are out of luck as a result.
“It looks as though I won’t be going to any U3A meetings in the near future,” Mr Norton said.
Liz Chapman, of the Geraldine U3A, said the club had been extremely popular and outgrown its venue.
It has been operating for seven years and Mrs Chapman has been a member for three years.
“When I joined there were 60 to 70 members.
Within the last 12 to 18 months it has grown to 134.”
Its meeting venue, the Waihi Lodge Function Centre, can officially hold 100 people in the room.
“We never have all our 134 members at a meeting; last time we had 94.”
The club decided to close the membership and restrict it to Geraldine residents only, although five members from Temuka had earlier joined and remained.
Mrs Chapman believed the reason for the club’s success was the quality of the speakers who were experts in their field.
“The last speaker we had talked on the 10 things DNA tells you about yourself.”
John Barton, secretary of the Timaru U3A, said the organisation had 350 members and generally 200 turned up to meetings. They had about 150 people on a waiting list.
“It’s an issue for us and it’s why we shifted to our current venue in the West End hall where the increased capacity allowed us to add additional members.”
U3As: What are they?
The University of the Third Age is an international movement which aims to educate and stimulate mainly retired members of the community – those in their “third age” of life. The emphasis has been on sharing knowledge, without formal links to traditional universities.
Statistics from the 2013 Census showed 20.5% of people in the Timaru district were aged 65 years and over, compared with 14.3% of the total New Zealand population.