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Third Age movement celebrates 10 years in Stansted

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A thriving community group that allows older people to explore their creative talents and continue learning has celebrated 10 years in Stansted.

The branch of U3A (University of the Third Age) now has more than 300 members and a remarkable 30 interest groups ranging from gardening, exercise classes and crafts to art, poetry, walking and languages.

It marked the start of its anniversary year with a celebration in St John’s Church on Thursday where members from Stansted and surrounding villages showcased their talents and chairman Ray Smith cut a birthday cake made by Gill Dean.

Ray Smith cuts the Stansted U3A 10th anniversary cake (19806605)
Ray Smith cuts the Stansted U3A 10th anniversary cake (19806605)

An exhibition of paintings and displays of photos from trips, holidays and group activities were particularly popular among the 150 existing and prospective members who turned up at the event.

Vice-chair Sally Rich said their vibrant branch welcomed anyone who wanted to join. “Just because we are older doesn’t mean we don’t want to learn things, we are still very intellectually active and want to use our brains!

“Most of us are retired, some had good jobs, some people are widowed, but we all help each other. We are a very friendly group and one widow who joined our choir described it as ‘life-saving’.”

Setting up the art exhibition (19807091)
Setting up the art exhibition (19807091)

Mrs Rich said the Stansted U3A Singers and U3A Strummers entertained everyone at the birthday event and every interest group was there to show off its activities.

“ It was really encouraging that so many signed up to join in with them. The afternoon was rounded off by the cutting of our anniversary cake and a round of Happy Birthday was sung by all.”

U3A is primarily aimed at those in their third age - retired or semi-retired people or those no longer raising a family who are keen to develop their interests or learn something new in a friendly environment.

Run entirely by its volunteer network, the UK wide movement has more than 1,000 groups nationwide.

Mrs Rich said the learning activities available included yoga, pilates and the very popular card-making classes. It had four book clubs, a literary group, art appreciation, French, Italian, bridge and scrabble clubs with some meeting once a month, some once a week.

Its free monthly meetings are held every last Thursday of the month at St John’s Church Hall, Chapel Hill, from 1.30pm for 2pm where tea and coffee is served, there is usually a guest speaker and prospective members are welcome along.

Mrs Rich said it also held popular Saturday seminars for members where experts talked on a range of subjects from art to science and technology.

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