I loved Brisbane, and met quite a few tremendous individuals. The picture above was taken at Brisbane’s University of the Third Age centre in the City. It’s one of the biggest in the country, and possibly one of the few U3A’s which owns its premises. The demand for classes are huge, and include debates about the Middle East, poetry appreciation and creative writing.
Ignore the person in the photo who wearing their last clean cardigan, and look at these brilliant folk who run the centre, coordinate the classes, advocate for active ageing, give older people great purpose, and open minds. I met Gail, Rosemarie, Thea and Greg on Thursday afternoon and also dropped into some of the classes being run. I think the whole concept is joyful, and generous. People share skills, volunteer their time, and it’s all low cost to ensure access.
Thea also took me to visit Keperra Sanctuary Retirement Village on Friday, her friendly home in Brisbane. Here, 350 residents live independently and almost all participate in or facilitate in classes. There are groups for art, poetry, philosophy and family history. I ate yet more cake and talked to a few of the individuals who enjoy life in this village. Hearing them talk about later life was illuminating for me. We are all by turns social and private, but that feeling isolated can happen quite starkly as you age.
From both of these visits, I wondered about opportunities for professional writers. U3A was set up in France and the UK adapted the model in the 1980s. There are now hundreds of local groups. On the one hand, U3A has a wonderfully responsive audience of seniors, eager to try their hand at all kinds of things. This is the place where you could run a slam poetry event or create a collaborative digital graphic novel for elders, and find a keen audience. That said, this is a volunteer model, so for writers trying to build a career and earn some dosh, it’s not quite the right setting. In the retirement village, a mix of internal and external funding would probably need to be secured. As ever, interesting to ponder…