Profile of the Network

by Jean de Hosson

WHAT a wonderful response was made to our recent NSW Members’ Survey! 62 Surveys were dispatched and 59 were completed and returned. The Network Secretary, while kept busy, is absolutely thrilled with our members’ cooperation and willingness to be of help. Naturally, not all the information has been collated but here are a few preliminary results from our 59 respondents:

Their combined membership in 2012 was 26 017 and is now 27 396 of whom 24% are male and 76% female. 78% of our membership is between the ages of 60 to 80. While most of our U3As operate over their local area, 38% have “outlying” centres where they operate.

And what were judged the BEST things about U3A? Well, the responses were varied but showed definite trends. By far the two greatest responses were almost evenly divided between Learning and Social Benefits. However, each was expressed in a variety of ways.

Learning was noted as lifelong, creative, and an opportunity to develop new skills. It kept the body and mind active. It stimulates new ideas and also helps maintain one’s skills. Through learning there is the opportunity to share knowledge and interests. The non-judgemental atmosphere allows “quiet” members to participate. On the one hand, it stimulates members to research topics and learn about their environment but on the other allows those who have skills to share them with their fellow U3Aers. Furthermore, in U3A members have been able to participate in activities not offered anywhere else. All of this takes place in a safe, supportive environment where age doesn’t seem to matter!

Which brings us to the Social Benefits. U3A encourage “Seniors to get out and about”, as one response said. (or, “Keeps us off the streets”, as one of our tutors remarked). The social experiences, activities, interaction and links both between members and other U3As were commented on. U3A is a place to meet both a variety of people as well as those of a like mind. It develops friendships, camaraderie and companionship. It is a supportive environment. Through U3A, networks and social interactions occur. There is an outreach to the aged and general community building.

Affordability was another aspect that a number of U3As found to be a strong factor. U3A definitely gives value for money. Tutors were praised as the “backbone” of U3As. Strong, Active Membership is strongly valued. Being part of the Management Committee was seen as an opportunity to develop a sense of purpose and team work. The setting of goals and meeting challenges were also given as a strength of U3A as was personal development.

The U3A that also encompasses a Mens’ Shed said it was great – particularly for attracting male members!

This is just a taste of what you’ve told us. When the survey is fully analysed, we will send everyone a copy. My sincere thanks to all you wonderful committee members who added this survey to your usual tasks. If you do not see the exact wording of your response to What are the three best things about U3A? please, remember that I’ve had to categorise your answers. I did wonder whether the question might be an interesting one to tack onto your renewal forms this year … I wonder how your members would respond ?