Merrin Shaw and Marty Foster from U3A Maleny

Merrin Shaw and Marty Foster from U3A Maleny

by Dale Jacobsen

If you are over 50, a whole new world of ideas, inspiration and information is at your fingertips, and in your neighbourhood, thanks to Sunshine Coast U3A – the University of the Third Age. Dale Jacobsen, and others, share why this is such a valuable resource and how you can access it.

The Sunshine Coast U3A is clear about what represents the third age: “It’s that time of freedom from the workforce when you can renew that set-aside passion for art or literature, stay fit and young through learning and social networking and enjoy a sense of wellbeing and purpose with your peers at the University of the Third Age”.

It was this spirit of learning through sharing, and having fun in the process, that inspired Marty Foster to go along to the Maleny group.

“I have lived here for 20 years but, until five years ago, I didn’t know about the U3A. I attended their Open Day at the University of the Sunshine Coast and have been involved ever since,” she said.

As they say, ask a busy woman if you want to get things done. Marty spends her week volunteering with Meals on Wheels, driving for Blackall Range Care Group, in the Maleny Information Centre, Bloomhill Op Shop and at the Sunshine Coast U3A office.

She became Class Captain for Maleny U3A lectures when the previous captain suffered ill health.

“I can’t take credit for sourcing our speakers,” she explained. “Credit must go to Lyn Lovell who finds the most interesting people to give lectures right across the Sunshine Coast.”

However, she is always on the lookout for likely speakers, which is how I came to give a couple of Antarctic presentations at U3A.

While Maleny once boasted a varied programme of classes from bushwalking to book binding, these days, it offers a weekly series of lectures that attracts presenters from all walks of life.

The day I popped in to take photos, 36 attentive people were listening to Bob Railton’s lecture: No Detectives Please, We’re British.

Another busy woman who also volunteers in the U3A SC office is Merrin Shaw, from Mt Mellum. Merrin has lived on the Range for six years, and during that time has become involved in the local community, coordinating the Sunday Markets at the RSL and knitting crazy tea cosies.

“People think it is about keeping tea warm, but it’s about talking stories, sharing memories, laughing.”

Merrin would like to see more people involved in offering their talents to widen the scope of classes on the Range. “We live in a dynamic community. I’ve met some incredibly talented and educated people in these hills, and there are probably many out there who could share their gifts. For example, it would be fantastic to have a series of photography classes, or swimming, languages such as conversational French.”

There is a comprehensive Guide to Tutors provided to people who have the time, inspiration and talent to share.

The University of the Third Age began in Australia in 1984. U3A Sunshine Coast Inc. formed two years later, now celebrating over 30 continuous years, and is attached to the University of the Sunshine Coast at Sippy Downs.

With over 2,000 members on the coast, it holds classes in many centres from Coolum to Caloundra, and from the Range to the Coast.

Marty explained what is needed to belong. “If you are over 50 and no longer work full-time, you will be made most welcome. Most of our tutors are retired professional people, many have been university lecturers, but of course, that’s not essential.”

Apart from the obvious benefits of belonging to the U3A, members can also (with permission) sit in on lectures at the University, make use of equipment, use the library, gym and swimming pool.

“We have a wonderful collaboration with the uni,” said Merrin. Marty elaborated: “They treat us as part of the Campus. They also draw on our membership if they need older people. For example, some of us took part in the Brain Gym for Dementia Prevention programme”.

Each year, U3A Sunshine Coast holds an Open Day at the university where people can come along, ask questions of the lecturers or U3A admin staff.

In 2018, it will be held on Saturday, January 13 at the Innovation Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs. There will be signage to direct people.

During Open Day, people will be able to check out the wide range of courses on offer across the Sunshine Coast, join up, or renew their membership.

“The system was computerised last year,” said Marty. “Not everyone is computer literate (although that would be a really good class to run in Maleny) and we can help out. All they have to do is ask.”

Cost is minimal, at $40 per year. Some classes also ask for a small amount if a venue is hired, or there are materials used, but costs are kept as low as possible. The U3A is run entirely by volunteers as a not-for-profit organisation.

If you are interested in joining as a member or would like to know more about becoming a tutor, contact:

U3A Sunshine Coast:

phone: 5430 1123 (9am-12noon Mon-Fri)