The Bray Heads U3A
'The Bray Heads U3A' is a ‘University of the Third Age’ (or U3A) group based in Bray, Co. Wicklow, which was launched on 6 September 2018. It has around 120 members. The mission of the Group is to promote and practice lifelong learning and active, creative, ageing for senior citizens in local communities through learning and doing new things, meeting new people, having some fun and sharing skills, experience and interests with others.
The Bray Heads U3A group meets fortnightly on Thursdays at 10.30 at Bray Golf Club, starting with a talk or activity for about an hour, after which members mingle and chat over coffee and tea.
The Group was set up, and Its activities are planned, by a fairly informal Co-ordinating Team of eight, most of us Bray natives, who will work closely with other members to shape and develop both the character and the activities of the Group.
What is ‘the Third Age’ and what is meant by active, creative ageing ?The ‘Third Age’ is the time in life which follows, firstly, the developmental years of childhood into young adulthood, then the hectic years of work and raising families. It is a time when many ‘Third Agers’ find themselves with quite a bit of free time – maybe more than any previous time in their lives - and also many more years ahead of them than their forebears. Various factors have contributed to people now living considerably longer than previous generations, often long beyond their age of retirement age and the raising of their families.
Research has shown that genetics and medical conditions seem to be less important in determining the quality of these later years than the actions and attitudes which individuals adopt. One study concluded, for example, that ‘ageing is not a random phenomenon: the individual is an agent of his/her own ageing process, and the capacity for ageing well - healthy and active - comes, in a certain extent, from decisions taken by individuals themselves as well as his or her behavior’ . Key lifestyle choices which can greatly enhance the length, quality, productivity, satisfaction and overall wellbeing of our ‘Third Age’ include, not only diet and physical exercise, but crucial factors such as mental stimulation, social interaction, feeling a sense of purpose, being connected and maintaining a positive outlook on life. This is at the heart of the U3A mission, ethos and activities and what it aims to help Group members achieve in a fun and friendly way.
What is the ‘University of the Third Age or U3A?The University of the Third Age – more familiarly known as U3A - is a movement founded in France in 1973, in response to rapidly growing demand among retired people and other seniors for opportunities to keep active, to keep stimulated, to keep learning, and to keep in touch with others and the world around them. So successful was the venture that there are now thousands of branches in different parts of the world with hundreds of thousands of active seniors enthusiastically participating in U3A activities. In Ireland, where the movement is relatively recent, Age Action Ireland has encouraged and supported the creation of over 20 U3A groups across the country, with many new groups like ours setting up all the time.
Unlike other universities, the University of the Third Age is not a campus of imposing buildings, there are no entry qualifications, no set curriculum, no exams, no accreditations or degrees, (almost) no fees and no-one gets paid. U3A is a university in the sense that it is a community of learners and peer teachers. Its members are retired or soon-to-be retired people, or others who have raised families or cared for loved ones, who now have the time, energy and zest for life to want to remain active and involved for many years. They are people who want to discover, learn and do new things, to expand their horizons, and pursue and share their skills, experience, interests and passions. In U3A Groups they will meet a community of new people like themselves who intend to flourish in their golden years and to make the most of them.
U3A Groups are governed, not by common rules and administrative structures, but by the U3A mission and ethos of lifelong learning and human interaction, and by the members of each individual U3A group, who work together on a voluntary basis, with minimum bureaucracy and no hierarchies. There is no uniform model for U3A groups, each group is independent in setting its own agenda and arranges its activities to reflect the interests of its own members. No two groups are the same. Some groups are predominantly high-brow, focusing on formal lectures by academics and experts, others are much more informal and engage in more practical or fun activities, while many more engage in a broad mix of activities. U3A group activities can encompass fields like the sciences, history, crafts, literature, international and current affairs, languages, local issues, quizzes, book clubs, nature, music, personal stories, trips - and anything else which their members enjoy, want to learn, or wish to organise. Like group members who themselves present talks and facilitate activities, external speakers and facilitators operate on an unpaid basis.
Members of U3A Groups are very much encouraged to get to know each other, to share interests and to make new friends and every effort is made to facilitate interaction in a warm, friendly and enjoyable environment.
What are the plans for The Bray Heads U3A group?A small but successful U3A group was set up in Fassaroe in Bray some years ago but it rapidly reached full membership capacity and there remains considerable unmet demand from active seniors in Bray, North Wicklow and South Dublin for the sort of lifelong learning and personal development opportunities and experiences which U3A Groups offer.
Encouraged by Age Action Ireland, a small team of mostly-Bray natives therefore decided to create a second Bray U3A Group with its base at the beautifully-located and finely equipped Bray Golf Club. The Bray Heads U3A name reflects not only our location, but also our spirit and ethos, and the idea of learning with a bit of fun thrown in. Our logo, in U3A colours, inspired by our location on Bray Head, was designed by Conor McNally,
Meetings of The Bray Heads U3A start promptly at 10.30, with the first hour devoted to a talk by a distinguished speaker, followed by questions, comments and discussion, which are very much encouraged and always very welcomed by the speakers. After this, and for up to an hour after the talk, Group members are strongly encouraged to stay on after each talk to mingle, chat and share their stories with others over coffee and tea, which included in the meeting charge. For Group members who may be interested in lunching together after the meeting, Bray Golf Club may can offer meals or snacks to Bray Heads U3A members at reasonable prices.
The Group's meeting schedule may be adjusted over time in accordance with demand, and sub-groups may be created which would meet at times determined by their participants. To provide a focus for the early months of the Group's activities, an exciting series of talks on a broad range of topics by expert speakers has been lined up for the months from September to March (listed on the EVENTS page), with subsequent events in our Programme reflecting members' interests. In accordance with the U3A ethos, strong emphasis will be placed on Group members initiating, leading and conducting talks and other activities themselves, though this will be strictly voluntary.