Harvesting the talents of the post war baby boomers

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It’s harvest festival time, the trees with their beautiful displays of colour are reminding us that it’s mid-autumn, in the cycle of the ever changing seasons we are heading towards the winter, and the U3A continues to grow in Wetherby and District.

I’m reminded of the seasonal nature of the year, being a farmer’s daughter, and the mother of a farmer.

I was collecting Bramley apples from under the trees in my son’s orchard at the weekend and with the promise of blackberry and apple pies to come in the days ahead, it’s very obvious that Wetherby & District U3A has a ‘harvest’ of its own to celebrate.

On Wednesday December 16 at 2.30pm in The Engine Shed on York Road in Wetherby, the monthly Open Meeting will showcase a selection of group activities, for the enjoyment of members and visitors.

Many of the 85 activity groups which make up Wetherby and District U3A have evolved over the years to become broader in their interests than originally intended and now encompass a wider range of members. This growth has enabled people to attempt an activity which previously had been something outside their consideration.

The walking, cycling, birdwatching, psychology, walking with lunch, painting, music appreciation to name just a few have all grown significantly throughout the year spawning second and third groups.

Growth doesn’t happen without effort and the organisation of Wetherby & District U3A has developed in such a way that its growth appears to happen almost by accident. However, it is the membership itself which has caused this growth by expressing its interest and desire to try something new, or take their existing knowledge to a higher level.

The U3A has a very wide range of groups, activities and short courses already up and running, many of which welcome new members; others are in development and will start as soon as they have enough interested members and/or a group leader.

The spirit of the U3A is one of members offering to run - or help to run - interest groups for each other and new groups are being set up all the time. A group can start as soon as there are enough interested members and following an informal meeting at which the members can chat about what they want from, and can offer to, the proposed group and its organisation. Every group needs a leader or coordinator but this role varies from group to group and necessary tasks are always shared between members.

Publicity about the potential new groups and interests are made available through the open meetings, the regular newsletter and the website. Reports of Group activities are also available for everyone to access.

Outdoor activities like geology, garden visits and cycling tend to operate on a seasonal basis. Our cycling group will be operating on an ad hoc basis, depending on the weather, throughout the winter. As a member and joint co-ordinator of the cycling group I will be using the opportunity of seasonal down time to concentrate on cycle training with Go Cycling in Leeds to equip our members with new skills for the season ahead.

There are short courses to sign up for, such as calligraphy, eBay buying and selling, computer basics, memory course, digital camera, PowerPoint, Excel, map reading for walkers and taster sessions for several outdoors sports activities about which I have already written.

As I write about the U3A, it occurs to me that I am writing about a different kind of harvest from the one originally intended.

The post war Baby Boom is coming home to roost. What is evident is that the success of the U3A is in part due to the advent of the National Health Service, the 1944 Education Act, subsidised University places and the job opportunities of the 1960’s. All these elements together with early retirement are what are driving the growth in our particular age group and in the success of the University of the Third Age. The opportunities presented to our age group throughout our lives have been enormous. The depth and breadth of experience and expertise are boundless, the level of curiosity unsurpassed.

We are very fortunate to be able to reap this harvest and share our skills with others both within the organisation and the community.