U3A empowers pensioners

U3A members, are pictured, in the banquet hall at Bellville civic centre.
The saying goes that you are never too old to learn something new, and that is evident at the University of the Third Age (U3A), where pensioners take part in various activities and open themselves up to new experiences. 

The U3A was started in Toulouse, France, in 1973 by Pierre Vellas, a professor of social sciences, to provide further education and skills development for people over the age of 55.

Since then, the organisation it has grown to many parts of the world, including Australia, Cyprus, Dominica, New Zealand, Canada as well as Central and Eastern Europe. 

U3A was first introduced to South Africa in Cape Town (CBD) was the first to introduce the concept to South Africa in 2003, with members meeting monthly at the Baxter Theatre. Later that year, the and not long after in the same year theTygerberg branch was started by Deidi Gee. 

Since then, the Tygerberg group has grown from 16 to more than 700 members, who pay a monthly membership fee of R50. 

Some of the activities, include book and bridge clubs; knitting, line dancing, birding and wine appreciation.
Ms Gee said: “When we began the Tygerberg group, we were just 16 members meeting regularly at my house, and now we have grown so much. 
“And now, for many of us, these meetings and classes are the highlights of our months.” 

The former teacher, who learnt about the group from reading about it happening in Australia, added that 10 U3A groups had formed in greater Cape Town since 2003. There are now 10 U3A groups in Muizenberg, Paarl, Khayelitsha, Athlone and Somerset West that has close to 2000 members. 

Ms Gee said: “This group is designed to stimulate the members socially and intellectually, and we achieve this by things such as various activities, such as computer classes, and we also stimulate ourselves through languages, such as French, Xhosa and Italian.” 

All the classes are voluntary and are taught by either members with knowledge of a particular subject or monthly guest speakers.
At last week’s meeting, Eagle Encounters At the meeting last week the group was treated to a lesson about gave the group a lesson on falconry and the conservation of birds of prey by the NGO Eagle Encounters. 

The animal group,non-profit, which is based at the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch, was represented by handler Chantal Jooste and a female Verreaux’s eagle named Mick. 

Ms Jooste said: “At Eagle Encounters, we are dedicated to educating members of the public about birds of prey, such as Mick, as well as other birds, such as owls, hawks and even pigeons. We get our birds through other animal conservation groups, members of the public who rescue birds in their neighbourhoods and even when animals are confiscated from members of the public who keep the animals illegally as pets.” 

The talk was a hit with the U3A members, and they had plenty of questions for Ms Jooste afterwards. 

While Ms Jooste spoke the auditorium was fascinated by what they were hearing and had it not been for Had U3A chairman Johan Mallinson not stopped questions, the members could have easily found themselves leaving the venue after sunset. 

U3A speaker seeker, the one responsible for sourcing the monthly speakers, Gerda Conradie is the one responsible for finding monthly speakers for the club.

“We are always trying to invite different members of the public to come and educate us, and we also arrange outings to the venues for our members. At our group here in Tygerberg we have members from as far as Thornton and Edgemead and all the way from Kraaifontein, but we are always looking for more members to join us, and anybody who wishes to join is welcome.”