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U3A 120Roseanna Cunningham MSP has sponsored an exhibition in Parliament on behalf of the University of the Third Age (U3A). U3A is a self-help learning co-operative movement for older people who are no longer in full-time employment.  In Scotland there are 54 local U3As, from the Shetland to the Borders, with nearly 12,000 members.  There are two local U3As in the Perthshire South & Kinross-shire.  

Fully and semi-retired people in Scotland have a new way to learn about subjects that interest them thanks to U3As.  More than one per cent of the over 65s is now learning for fun in these locally-led educational groups and research also shows that regularly meeting up with other people brings attendant health and social benefits.  MSPs who visited the U3A in Scotland exhibition in the Scottish Parliament this week are being encouraged to support the creation and development of U3As in their constituencies. 

Ms Cunningham said:

“The exhibition has been a great success with the folk from U3A kept busy with plenty of my fellow MSPs visiting the U3A stall in the Parliament Lobby. I was particularly pleased to hear that some of my colleagues who represent areas without a U3A seemed genuinely interested in doing what they could to assist in the development of new ones.

“My fellow MSPs now have a much clearer understanding of how U3As work.  Older people have a lifetime of knowledge to share at a point when they also have more time to learn.  

“The range of subjects people want to study informally is purely down to the interests of local members.  It could be art or architecture to opera or origami.  Someone knowledgeable leads the group but really everyone chips in.  

“I have been aware of the two U3A groups in my own constituency but I was surprised to find that there are already 54 U3As up and down the country, with more getting ready to launch.  

“It makes sense that going to individual classes and monthly U3A meetings can impact social isolation.  U3As are a feel-good community resource for those in or facing retirement.  

Chair of the U3A in Scotland, Kath Payne, said: 

“We are keen to raise awareness among politicians of the full range of benefits that our voluntary lifetime learning groups can bring in later life.  Our members too have a wealth of experience and expertise which is useful for policy makers to tap into.  We are delighted so many MSPs are pledging to support this lifelong learning phenomenon in Scotland.”

NOTE: The U3A is a self-help learning co-operative movement for older people no longer in full-time employment. U3As are autonomous but are affiliated to the Third Age Trust, a registered charity. The first U3A established in Scotland was in Perth in 1988.  There are now 54 U3As across the country with 11,667 members (December 2018).  Further details at:

Scotland has an aging population.  The 2017 mid-year estimated 5,424,800 people of which 19% (1,030,712) are aged over 65 and 51% are female.  This rising demographic is set to continue.  Finding low costs resources based in local communities which can help to improve mental health and wellbeing among older people will be key to assisting the population’s good health in later life.

In 2018, U3A in the UK published a report entitled: ‘Learning not lonely’.  The key conclusions were that the U3A model of learning can reduce loneliness, assist skill sharing among the older population and contribute to the aging well debate. 

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Above is a photograph showing Roseanna Cunningham MSP pledging support for U3A.  Photo taken at the U3A in Scotland exhibition stand in the Garden Lobby, Scottish Parliament, 29-31 January 2019. The event was highlighted on Facebook and twitter accounts with the hashtag #ISupportU3A and to U3As’ associated national body, the Third Age Trust @U3A_UK 




Roseanna Cunningham MSP, 63 Glasgow Road, Perth PH2 0PE  •  01738 620540   •   Website designed & hosted by Craig Mackay Design