We live in an ageing society where people are living longer . For the first time there are more people over 60 than children under 16 in the UK.

U3A in Newry has a wealth of different activities on offer. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
U3A in Newry has a wealth of different activities on offer. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

There is much talk these days about wellbeing and how older adults can age in a positive way. Wellbeing involves both mind and body. Physical and mental wellbeing are very closely related. Positive ageing is about firstly having a positive attitude to life and oneself. It’s also about engaging as fully as possible in the life you live. The way we act, the choices we make and the way we think have a big impact on our wellbeing. Evidence suggests that there are four steps to mental and physical wellbeing These are:

 1. Connect.

Older people living away from family can feel isolated and lonely. The IPad and computer classes in the U3A have been very popular.  Members have been learning about Skype and enjoying chatting to sons,daughters and grandchildren who are living away from home. They have been learning about emails and texting too. In fact learning the many ways they can use  social networks.

Dr Thomas Morton, psychology lecturer at Exeter University states that: “People who are socially isolated or who experience loneliness are more vulnerable to disease and decline.” Researchers into this are say that positive feelings, such as growth in confidence, and feeling less isolated lead to overall better mental health and physical wellbeing.

But another form of connection goes on in the U3A as members make new friends in their classes and meet up with old friends in our two social areas.   Also two groups regularly attend the Luncheon Club in the Catering College. Social afternoons are great fun and have a large attendance. Ask any of the Craft Classes what they get besides learning new skills and they   invariably mention “the craic” and the chats!

2. Be Active

Physical activity as you get older can help you feel positive, energetic, have a feeling of accomplishment and independence. There is strong evidence to suggest that those who are active have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. If you are wondering which activity might best suit you you would do well to check out the following activities available in the U3A.

Walk and Talk, Dancing Class, Chair based Exercises, New Age Curling, Golf, Yoga and Gardening.

Some members go as a group to Keep Fit and Swimming in the local facilities.

 It is never too late to get moving - the human body responds to exercise regardless of age.

3. Keep Learning

We are never too old to learn something new. If you have been looking for encouragement to try a new hobby or take up one that you may have tried earlier in your life, the following may help you take that step.  Here are five benefits to trying something new as an older adult. These are: Improved memory -eg. taking up a new language - helps keep memory sharp and can slow cognitive ageing.

Self Discovery : You can discover a latent talent or learn how you deal with the learning curve of a new subject

Increased Happiness: Just changing your routine and the enjoyment of engaging in something new can make you happier! If you doubt this come in and listen to the buzz as members come out of our classes.

Sense of accomplishment: When you finally try out something you have been putting off for various reasons, you will have a great sense of pride and achievement.

Opportunity for socialisation: The great thing about the classes in the U3A is that the tutors are older people too and can understand how seniors learn. The classes are not exam focussed so there is lots of time for members to get to know one another and form friendships. The cups of tea and biscuits are always welcome after the classes.

There are over 70 classes happening in the U3A at present. So if you would like to learn a new language, play chess, sing in a choir, make art, read poetry or listen to good music or enjoy some bible study, come along to the U3A. if you are a man who falls into the “Cant cook wont cook” category we can help you on the road to Master Chef! If  Chess, Bridge and Creative  Writing are classes you often thought you'd like to attend, well perhaps now is the time to come along and chat to us. 

4.Giving: 

Many people are happy to give something back to the community. This brings its own rewards in keeping their minds sharp,to experience themselves in productive roles and provide great opportunities for connecting with others.

There are over 50 volunteer tutors in the U3A. They often speak of the satisfaction and delight when they see members achieving their goals and enjoying their class.

It is very evident that Newry U3A plays a very important part in maintaining the wellbeing and positive ageing  of older people in this area. Remember no one can give you wellbeing. That is something you have to do for yourself. We are back now after our Christmas Break. You are very welcome to call in and see what is on offer.

U3A Notes by Mary Cunningham