Melanie Nash in Barcelona

Great opportunity to attend international conference

Since retiring at 60 and joining the U3A just over a year ago I really enjoy reading Third Age Matters. I worked for many years in early years education so was very interested to read a call in the February 2018 edition of TAM for a U3A members to volunteer to speak at the AIUTA conference in Barcelona. After submitting a draft presentation to the international committee I was lucky enough to be chosen.

The theme of the conference at the end of June was ‘Standards of Education among U3As and the Intergenerational Formation’. The committee helped me to understand more about the UK model of the U3A and supported me to be able to cover this. I was also able to attend a European Federation of Older Students conference in London to give me a wider understanding of the European U3A movement. As a member of South Leicestershire U3A I drew on my personal experience and that of my mother who was also a U3A member to illustrate how interest groups and the U3A mutual aid structure in the UK contribute to a quality experience which informs, entertains and improves quality of life for members.

I was the first speaker so, after my presentation, I could settle down with the members of the Third Age Trust International Committee members who were also attending to listen to the rest of the presentations from around the world. There were presentations from China, Spain, Malta, Canada, Romania, Costa Rica and the Czech Republic.

All were very interesting in that all had adapted their ways of working to suit local conditions. Some presentations covered the various ways of rising to the challenge of increasing numbers of older people. Some were also concerned with addressing the needs of increasing longevity where people want to be able to learn, socialise and continue to contribute even if they are no longer able to live independently. There was much to learn from and I was particularly interested in a Spanish Professor who is having great success teaching third agers English using lots of new technology including Whats App groups.

The conference was held in the auditorium of the Psychology, Education, Science and Sports Faculty of Barcelona University. We had plenty of opportunities to meet delegates over lunch which was provided in the canteen in the nearby Science Museum. Delegates came from all over Europe as well as Africa and South America.

After the conference was over we were treated to a guided tour of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral followed by a meal at a restaurant cookery school. The next day before flying home I was able to visit the Gaudi House of Bones with the committee members from the UK.

All in all an extremely enjoyable trip which allowed me to learn about the diverse ways that U3As  operate across the world. Many thanks to the international committee for giving me this opportunity.


Melanie Nash