‘The University of the Third Age and Active Ageing European and Asian-Pacific Perspectives’, edited by Marvin Formosa, provides a rigorous comparative analysis of the U3A movement informed by research, scholarship and practice. The book draws upon a diversity of global U3A experiences and contexts, offers a unique and necessary update overview, and analysis of the U3A movement, and looks ahead to future challenges, with policy recommendations.
The final Chapter 21, available to read online here, also contains a passionate call to action for the U3A movement to renew itself in order to remain relevant for an incoming generation of older persons. Marvin Formosa reflects on the significance of the travails of the University of the Third Age (U3A) movement that, since its modest inception in 1973, has certainly exceeded all expectations. However, he warns that the imperative to renew U3A faces two distinct challenges.
The first is for U3As to remain relevant and attuned to the life-world of present and incoming older cohorts. At present, the U3A movement generally overlooks how incoming older cohorts are characterised by diverse generational dispositions when compared to those held by older adults during the early 1970s and 1980s when Professors Vellas and Laslett conceptualised and launched their Francophone and Anglophone U3A versions. Despite its promise, the notions of ‘activity theory’ and ‘active ageing’ are fast becoming inadequate to capture the complexity of older persons’ lives in the face of changing family dynamics, increasing individualisation, within the all-encompassing online world.
The second challenge refers to the critical, practical and pragmatic strategies to steer the U3A ethos away from one of ‘lifelong learning’ and towards one of ‘longlife learning’. This goal necessitates concurrent strategies including: Overcoming French-British polarities; Quality of learning, instruction and curricula; and Social inclusion. Marvin Formosa addresses each of these strategies in detail and concludes that more research in these areas is essential if U3As worldwide are to become empowered to meet these challenges, and indeed for U3A to continue the success it has enjoyed over the past 50 years.
The reflections, challenges and strategies put forward make for sobering reading for U3A management cohorts and, in essence, describe in detail the ‘glass ceiling’ that many U3As are facing, with increased membership post-Covid but with decreased volunteer commitment, increasing costs of delivering courses but with increased demand, and providing appropriate services for an increasingly demanding and diverse clientele.
The complete e-Book of 277 pages is available through major online sellers.