Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

Why u3a matters in ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’

Since it was founded in 1982 the u3a movement has been a tonic for those members who have felt lonely and isolated due to changes in their lives. As it is now Mental Health Awareness Week, it is the perfect time to discuss the positive aspects of the movement and shine a light on the benefits that u3a brings to its members.

Feeling lonely as you get older

As people get older, mental health can shaped by life experiences and adverse events such as divorce or bereavement. Those who no longer work can also feel that their social circles have got smaller and this can result in a feeling of loneliness or isolation. The World Health Organisation has stated that around a quarter of older people can feel socially isolated and this can add to mental health conditions in later life.

Expand your social circle

u3a offers an excellent opportunity to combat loneliness and expand social circles. Many members form lasting friendships through group activities, leading to strong connections. Physical activity too can result in a more positive outlook and a feeling of accomplishment. Take gardening as seen in the image above, as an example, connecting with nature and gardening or mowing has been proven to reduce stress and improve overall health.

All of the activities at u3a have so many benefits attached to them, that for people who present with health issues, such as low mood or depression (which could relate to being lonely or isolated), some medical practitioners often refer them to a local organisation such as a u3a as a way of Social Prescribing and may be much more effective than prescribing medication. This offers a way for members of stay engaged and involved, being challenged intellectually and engaging with others. Those who are prescribed this by a medical practitioner should always have the correct support from the practitioner when attending any u3a groups, as this is a caring movement, not a care movement.

To find your local u3a, visit our website – u3a.org.uk/join

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