The U3A movement began in 1982 and it was developed for older people generally 55+, not in full time employment, to promote lifelong learning and facilitate skill sharing, mutuality and inclusion.
There are over 1000 U3A's in the UK and many in Devon. The individual U3A's are charities, part of the Third Age Trust, and are self-funding and comprise of interest groups chosen, led and developed by the participants. Within each U3A a member contributes a yearly amount usually between £15 and £30. U3A interest groups meet in members' homes, local halls and community facilities.
The volunteer-led U3A movement, using a model of informal lifelong learning, has had a net increase in membership of approximatley 20,000 people in full or partial retirement each year. This growth is mainly through word of mouth and members report that participation has a positive impact on wellbeing; the challenges facing wellbeing in later life being well documented.