U3As in Australia and New Zealand 2008: The Successful Ageing organisations

Windell, R., Vassella, K., Morgan,L., Sayer, T., Browne, R., Stewart, J., Waddington, J., White, B.

The self-help University of the Third Age (U3A) is an adult education approach for older people in which all the teaching and administration is carried out by unpaid volunteers. The purpose of this study was to reveal some of the successful ageing characteristics of the 205 independent U3As in Australia and the 60 independent U3As in New Zealand (NZ). An eight member project management group comprising retired researchers and U3A leaders from both countries managed the research process. A detailed 3-part questionnaire designed to: highlight details about the activities of each U3A; quantify the nature and extent of voluntarism within U3As; and bring to light management’s vision for the future, was mailed to all U3As. Results show that the all volunteer nature of an adult education organisation run by retired experts is an effective and highly rated approach although some difficulties are emerging as U3As struggle to cope with rising rental/hiring costs. The value of U3A voluntarism in Australia is conservatively calculated to be $21 million; in NZ it is $1.9 million. Many findings in this study point to the hidden value to society of a low cost, adult education model like U3A that utilises the skills of retired experts to provide successful ageing activities for fellow retirees. However, U3A managers may need to adapt their practises to cater for the retirement needs of the new wave of baby boomers. This report contains many tables and figures that summarise the “state of play” in U3A Australasia.