FOR 20 years the young-at-heart members of Brighouse 3rd Age Group have shared a passion for lifelong learning.
And, at a time of public spending cutbacks, they have no fears that their range of activities is going to be curtailed - since they have been almost entirely self-funding since the day the group was established.
Chairman Katharine Walsh is particularly proud that the group, which runs activities for the over-50s throughout the week from September to April, funds itself through members’ fees with the help of the occasional grant.
A wide range of classes is on offer at Waring Green Community Centre - from French conversation to dressmaking, table tennis to flower arranging, keep fit to singing - and membership levels are at a healthy 465.
“The 3rd Age Group is a great way to learn new skills and take up new hobbies but, as well as that, it’s about making new friends and meeting people. The social side is very important to our members. The club has a very supportive atmosphere and for people who live alone we can be a lifeline.
“Some of our members are in their 90s and they love coming along - the classes are part of their routine. Even in the bad weather this winter people made a determined effort to get to classes.”
As well as weekly classes, the group also holds the 3rd Age Forum, with a range of guest speakers, once a month and organises outings, a luncheon club and walking groups. Once a year, in April, the group holds an exhibition and display showcasing members’ work and skills.
Mrs Walsh said: “Our members are very talented and are happy to share their skills with others. People can start classes as absolute beginners and the class leaders will help them. Waring Green Community Centre is the focal point. This place is buzzing every day - there’s always something going on.
“We have never had help from Calderdale Council for what we do. Our class leaders and speakers are all volunteers. We stand on our own two feet and are run by and for our membership. People make lasting friendships through the 3rd Age Group.”
Committee member Margaret Roy, who runs the table tennis class, said: “People who come along have a lot of fun and are encouraged to try new activities. New members are made to feel very welcome.”
For friends Angela Lister and Jessie Hyland, chatting over their tapestry, the 3rd Age Group is an important part of their week. For dressmaking leader Sheila Simpson it’s a chance to share her skills and knowledge.
For Jennifer Knowles, tackling a complicated piece of embroidery, it’s a chance to catch up with friends. “I could do this at home but it’s much nicer to come along to the class and meet other people,” she said.
Mrs Walsh, who was a founder member of the group and has been involved ever since, said: “We believe that learning is for life. It’s exercise for the mind - but it’s also exercise for the tongue.”
And the happy buzz of chatter that can be heard in every room on any day of the week certainly seems to bear that out.