U3A – A ‘lifeline’ for many during the pandemic


The University of the Third Age, or ‘U3A’, is a nationwide network of learning groups aimed at encouraging older people to share their knowledge, skills and interests in a welcoming environment. Its members consist mostly of retired or semi-retired people, but its activities appeal to everyone from all walks of life.

Each U3A has a number of interest groups started by members for members. U3A nationally has existed for almost 40 years, and the Glasgow West End branch has been going for four. It is committed to bringing together older people who want to mingle, learn something new, and have some fun.

The first U3A meeting back in 2017

When the pandemic started, the group was nervous of the impact this would have on its membership, however now the U3A West End has over 300 members and they are raring to get out and about again. The U3A has consistently met during lockdown and is looking forward to more face-to-face meetings now things have eased up.

Liz Ervine, from the U3A West End, explains: “We never really closed during the pandemic as we managed to switch many of our groups and meetings to online, however we are delighted too that many of our activities can happen in person once again.”

“During the proper lockdown, the numbers attending our online meetings remained pretty consistent. Zoom enabled us all to keep in touch and connected with each other when the going got tough.”

“We were pleasantly surprised as to how successful our events were online – book groups, language groups, current affairs groups and our monthly meeting – all of these worked really well on Zoom. Even people doing quilting and crochet has been a huge success.”

“Our photography group has done especially well, and members are communicating with each other regularly on WhatsApp and then meeting on Zoom to share photos.”

“As restrictions eased, we have begun to meet face-to-face again. We’ve been able to organise walks, meet each other outside, and slowly we are getting back to almost normal.”

“We did a survey of our members over the last 6-months to see where people were at, asking them if they felt they were missing out because we were on Zoom.”

“One of the surprising comments from a member was that they were so glad to have joined the U3A when they did because it’s been a real ‘lifeline during lockdown’. It has meant that they could chat to people and it has given a structure to their life that they otherwise would not have had.”

The Wine Tasting Group meeting on Zoom during lockdown

“Many of our members said they didn’t know about Zoom to start with, and now they are saying it has made a huge difference to them to be in contact this way.

“Before the pandemic we used to meet on a Saturday once a month for a coffee and chat at the Hilton Grosvenor, but this hasn’t been available during Covid. Instead, we have managed to get outside when the weather has been nice and meet at Bingham’s Pond.”

The Walking Group at Castle Semple

The U3A is planning a ‘relaunch’ during an Open Day on Thursday 21st of October at 10am at Novar Community Hall to attract new members, coinciding with the group’s AGM. During the event, you will have a chance to hear directly from the group coordinators about what activities you can get involved with.

Liz continues: “We are encouraging as many people to join us for the Open Day as possible. If you want to learn new skills, meet new people and have some fun, the U3A is a great option for you. “Our activities appeal to a wide range of people of different ages and stages in life, and we allow people to take activities at their own pace.”

Members of U3A taking part in Beatson Charity Walk

“Into the future, U3A is keen to have a blended approach to our activities. Some of them will remain online – which opens us up to having people contributing from elsewhere in the country – and some will resort to face-to-face.

“We thought a relaunch would be appropriate to signal to people that we are still in business and our doors are always open to new members.”

The U3A West End AGM and Open Day will take place on Thursday 21st of October at Novar Community Hall G12 from 10am onwards. All welcome to attend. U3A members will also be on Byres Road on Saturday 23rd of October sharing flyers and information about the group.



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