Retired? Try U3A

September 26 2015

ARE YOU retired and wondering what to do next? Don’t stay at home – there are scores of activities on your doorstep, says Bristol U3A.

Want to keep mind and body active after retirement? The U3A might be for you


ARE YOU retired and wondering what to do next?  Don’t stay at home – there are scores of activities on your doorstep, says Bristol U3A.

Bristol U3A offers informal learning and leisure activities for older people, and is a great way to meet new people and find stimulating things to do once you’ve retired.  

Not heard of U3A? It stands for University of the Third Age – the first age being childhood, the second the years of adulthood. The third age is retirement – which can be a challenge, as South Bristol U3A organiser Helen Thomas found herself.

“Our aim is to help members keep their minds and bodies active while they learn something new, develop their interests and make friends,” said Helen.

Born and bred in Bristol, Helen lived for a long time in South Wales. 

“When I retired and moved back to Bristol, I thought, what shall I do now?” she said.

Hearing about U3A, she gave it a try but found many of the activities were north of the Avon.

“Someone said, if you want anything in South Bristol, then get something going.”

So she did – and now there are about 20 U3A groups in Knowle alone, with more in Bedminster and Brislington.

Groups are formed around subjects that interest the members.

“If I hear someone say, ‘I used to speak French’, or ‘I used to enjoy walking’, I say, ‘Right, let’s start a new group’,” said Helen.

Meeting in small subject or activity groups in local venues, U3A members share their knowledge, skills and experience.

South Bristol groups include bridge, table tennis, ukulele and recorders, poetry, French, books and short stories, ethics, exercise and walking. 

“We believe that we never stop learning, and the best way to learn in later life is by enjoying focused time with others who share our interests,” said Helen. 

“The good thing about is if you are new to the area, or recently retired, it makes it easy for you to meet people.

“You don’t realise until you retire than when you are working your day is full of people!”

Often the members rediscover skills they had forgotten.

“Someone asked if anyone else had played the recorder at primary school. Now we have a group that meets once a fortnight and we are getting quite good!” said Helen.

There are more than 100 groups meeting across Bristol  and 1,200 members covering a universe of interests. Some meet to chat, while others are more hands-on.

Some are very informal, while others are for those who want to learn something.

Some groups are very relaxed in their aims – such as the one focused on Historic Pubs of Bedminster and Central Bristol.

Others tackle serious subjects: the Ethics group recently had a discussion about assisted dying.

Some hark back to schooldays: there are several groups learning Latin informally.

Others look at art – some by studying art history, others by visiting the latest art exhibitions in Bristol.

“There are more than 20 groups in BS3 and BS4 so there is a good choice of things to do close to home.  

“We also have a monthly meeting for all members in central Bristol, with invited speakers on a wide range of topics”, added Helen.

 Membership costs just £15 for each year and covers as many activities as you want to do.  

“The best way to find out about Bristol U3A is to come to one of our monthly meetings, which are held in central Bristol, or to a local social group.  You’ll find a very warm welcome, and people to explain what we do and what is available near you,” said Helen.  

For more information:



Call 0117 963 1032