Carlisle and District’s University of the Third Age (U3A) is celebrating with record membership despite Covid-19 restrictions.

The organisation is part of a UK-wide movement which brings together people in their ‘third age’ to develop interests and continue learning after they’ve finished working full-time or raising a family.

The current age range of branch members is from 47 to the late 90s, although there is no age limit on those who would like to take part.

The branch has about 775 members who usually participate in some of the 50 activities on offer – 10 years ago the figure stood at about 500.

While many activities have stopped because of the coronavirus, others take place on the Zoom video-conferencing app while groups like birdwatching can meet in limited numbers, with rules on social distancing.

They range from line dancing, rag rug craft, painting, singing and a host of others.

Janet Dutton, branch chair, describes what she does as a “passion." She said: “We are ticking along at the moment.

"Things are difficult because we can’t have face-to-face meetings because of the demographic, with many of our members being over 70.

“One of the good things is just to be able to help people who are lonely and isolated.

“When I first joined about 10 years ago we had about 500 members; we’ve been spreading largely through word of mouth, neighbours speaking to each other for example.

“We have even had some referrals from social services but we are trying to find ways of getting the word out.”

The branch is taking part in an initiative to stop people becoming lonely and isolated through things such as dementia training.

Membership costs £10 a year; for details ring Janet on 01228 542338.

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