Nelson U3A president Paul Lunberg reckons you’re never too old to learn. Photo: Kate Russell.

Post-retirement ‘university’ booming in Nelson


Imagine if there was a local university for retirees with no passing or failing, no graduation, no teachers, no course fees and no required qualifications to join?

Welcome to the Nelson University of the Third Age – commonly known as the U3A.

The U3A is for those over the age of 50. It has been active in Nelson for 27 years but it’s still unknown to many, according to president Paul Lunberg, a retired secondary school teacher.

In Nelson there are 260 members participating in about 50 different groups, ranging from the arts, natural sciences, history, the humanities and personal development.

Architecture, critical reading, finance and investment, aspects of world history, musical renditions, successful gardening, TED talks and astronomy are just some of the courses on offer.

“There is something for everyone,” says Paul, who first signed up to U3A ten years ago.

The small groups are led by experts in different fields from the comfort of their own homes and usually involve plenty of banter, as well as plenty of cups of tea.

“Amongst our population there are experts in so many fields and they are often keen to share their knowledge with others. Sometimes there are no experts, just an interested group that gets together to research a subject,” Paul says.

“We are lucky in Nelson to have so many retired people with skills and interest in continued education.”

U3A started in France in 1973 and has spread to over thirty countries with several million members.

It costs just $30 to join, which is a bargain, according to Paul.

“Retired folk don’t think they know it all – they want to learn. For example, I’ve had a real buzz learning about opera. Just because you are retired, doesn’t mean you have to stop learning.”

Paul says it’s easy to join through their website and new members are always welcome.

“We’re very open. We want like-minded people to know there is an affordable way of learning in Nelson.”