Retirement is a big word with many meanings, and to everyone it means something different, writes Wetherby U3a columnist Caroline Green.
Some people dread it, some have it forced upon them, some can’t wait to get started, some are frightened of it, some can’t afford to do it, other’s see it as an opportunity to try all the things they’ve never had time to do previously.
When I retired just short of 65, I knew I wanted a change from working full time but wasn’t quite prepared to step into the new world of retirees, I didn’t feel old enough!
I gave myself a few months to get used to not going to work every day, didn’t commit myself to anything and didn’t see myself as a joiner of groups let alone the U3A.
My Mother was a member until she died at 94, regularly going along to her Library Group, a salvation for her, and she loved it.
I remember why I decided to join the U3A when I did; it was to keep myself fit and that’s when I joined the Cycling Group. I was extremely nervous at the thought of joining this new group, didn’t know anyone and hadn’t been on my bike seriously for years.
It meant I would be putting myself in a vulnerable position and I wasn’t sure that I would be able to keep up. I needn’t have worried; I quickly discovered I was among like-minded people all thinking the same thoughts. These cycling group outings led to great enjoyment, gave me back a sense of freedom, my fitness improved and I made new friends.
When our Group Leader left, there was a need for someone to take over. Because I wanted to carry on cycling I volunteered with another member, John Hackett, to take over the leadership, which we did jointly.
As a fully-fledged member of the Wetherby & District U3A I then decided it was time to attend one of the Open Meetings. It was there that Alan Pengilley asked for a volunteer to write a monthly report for the Wetherby News. I went home and thought about it and eventually rang Alan to say I’d like to offer if no-one else had…….he said no-on else had, so that’s how I got the job! This ‘job’ means that I can visit all the great groups in the U3A and report on their activities. The only trouble with this particular job is that I want to join every group I visit! There is not enough time in the day, let alone the week, and still there are groups I haven’t visited and new groups starting all the time.
Cycling is still my biggest and best hobby; the U3A Cycling group has grown to include new cyclists, frightened and nervous cyclists who haven’t been on a bike for 30 years, medium leisure cyclists, extra fast cyclists, cyclists who love a challenge and always the coffee stop on every ride.
We have developed a list of rides and delightful coffee stops, where we get to chat and relax. We also encourage safer cycling through our website and Ed Board’s Maintenance sessions. This year I’ve become involved as an individual as a volunteer for Sustrans, the sustainable transport Charity, helped to source funding to build a Skills Track for children with Wetherby Bike Trails (WBT).
WBT are a group of young men, all Dads with young families who are involved in their local community and instead of Wetherby just being a place to live, have discovered the wealth and importance of community through working with the Wetherby Lions, Leeds City Council, Wetherby Town Council and of course Facebook! Together we are working with local developers, Sustrans and Harrogate Borough Council to improve the infrastructure for this growing town with improved cycleways, walkways and better access for walkers and cyclists.
You might think I’m just rambling on, but there is a point to this. What started for me as a way of overcoming my initial reluctance and anxiety to join a group that I saw as too old, has led to so much. Have I grown as a retiree, yes I feel so. What benefits has being a U3A member brought me? A better level of fitness, new friends, new interests, discovering I love a campaign and most important of all being part of the wider community of Wetherby which was evident during the celebrations for the recent Tour de Yorkshire.
If you would like any information on joining the Wetherby & District U3A, check out our website www.wetherbyu3a.org.uk