Photo right: Morecombe Bay Charity Walk
I read Dame Esther Rantzen’s article on loneliness in TAM with interest. I particularly admire her and her team as they cover both ends of the spectrum, youth and age in the charities she set up: Childline and Silverline.
U3A is run thanks to the expertise of its talented leaders who also give their time for free. Britain as a country would be lost without this spirit of selfless giving.
Loneliness in later years can be a problem at the best of times and can impact on our mental health. We sometimes find bearing our soul to those we know difficult and so remain in denial – the English stiff upper lip. Now is not the time for this. We are all in this uncertain time together.
I feel U3A is vital in helping us to age well and is inclusive in its vast range of activities. Something for everyone and at amazing value. Like most U3A members I’m very active in the community. On retirement I was elected as a Cheshire East councillor and Sandbach Town councillor. This means I know a lot of people in the community.
I have had mental health issues and been diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. This is a roller-coaster of high and low moods. When high you can be productive and get things done. When low you can be depressed and exhibit challenging behaviour.
Mental health is a continuum. A quarter of the population will have a diagnosable
mental health condition in their lifetime. When I confide in U3A members they are understanding. In turn people often confide in me about their own problems.
I find the team work in sports and the inclusiveness on outings very beneficial to my mental well being. This is true in golf, bowls, theatre trips and days out.
I have an academic background. An M.A. in the social sciences from Manchester Metropolitan university and postgraduate research at Oxford university. I go back to reunions every year. I have put my knowledge and experience to good use and written a book on mental health which my sister, an M.D. in the U.S.A. is proof reading it as we speak! We are both keen members of U3A, play golf and go on trips when she is over. Last year we did the Morecombe Bay Galloway Charity Walk for the Blind.
Many people who rely on the U3A for a their social connection will feel the impact of the lockdown on their mental health. One thing is sure. We will all be delighted to see our mates again and tell our stories of how we survived lockdown.
Those with mental health issues will be particular vulnerable. My thoughts are with them at this challenging time. U3A plays a vital part in our ageing well.