The UNIVERSITY OF THE THIRD AGE (U3A) is an international organisation run on a volunteer basis offering learning, recreational and social activities for retired and semi-retired individuals. In the original definition a ‘university’ is a place where people gather together to learn from one another. The first age is one of growth and development, the second age one of employment and earning, and the third age is one of rest and retirement.
The U3A is a growing nationwide network of self-help educational activities organised by and for retired and unwaged people. The first Universite du Troisieme Age was founded in Toulouse in 1972. The Universities in France made available their facilities and tutors to provide courses for older people. The first University of the Third Age in the UK started in Cambridge in 1981. When the idea was taken up in the UK, the approach was different. U3As in the UK are created, organised, and managed on a voluntary basis by members who also run the activities themselves on a voluntary basis.
U3As are about involvement in learning new things, expanding horizons, sharing skills and experiences, making new friends, helping others to learn, accepting new challenges to show that age need be no barrier to learning or to helping others to learn, and to enjoy! As of February 2016 there are over 980 U3As in the UK with a total membership of over 360,000.