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U3As offer academic and skills classes across a wide range of hands-on activities and intellectual subjects conducted in various venues across the state. The U3A year is divided into four terms, similar to school terms, but there are no examinations.
Research has shown that learning does help older adults acquire psycho-social resources; it helps to build so many things related to self esteem, hope, communication, social integration and the like. These resources help us manage some of the less positive aspects of health decline associated with ageing.
Research also confirms that continued engagement in learning activities, especially on a weekly basis, really does increase the ongoing motivation that impacts positively on mental and physical health. This informal learning approach provides a lot of satisfaction and of course friendships and connections, reducing the risk of social isolation in later life.
Interestingly, normal higher education courses such as those at university aren’t necessarily associated with wellbeing. Where the benefits have really been shown to be effective is with informal learning such as people experience in U3A classes: learning activity that doesn’t result in formal qualifications but appeals in increasing knowledge in an area of interest or helping to create hobbies, etc. These informal learning activities are definitely linked with improved social and psychological wellbeing.