College Life column with Debra Forsythe-Conroy

Older students acquire new skills and meet friends.Older students acquire new skills and meet friends.
Older students acquire new skills and meet friends.
The relaxed period following retirement is an exciting time but before long the absence of routine starts to kick in. The thrill of not setting the alarm clock, thinking about what the following day may hold, attending long tedious meetings, sitting in rush hour traffic etc will all too quickly start to fade.

It may feel a little like being on holiday for the first few weeks but the days will soon start to slip by and the loss of immersing oneself in a work environment and importantly, the loss of being with people will quickly become a reality.

In recent history the wonderful U3A (University of the Third Age) has become firmly established and can offer lots of exciting and interesting things to do, not least tapping into a network of people at a similar juncture in life.

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The college has made contact with a view to using the college’s facilities for some of its important work.

Harrogate College is well known as a real community college with students of all ages studying occupational, technical and professional courses. Programmes are designed to focus on employability and to supporting the first steps on a new career or even seeking a new career path.

There are also those who are currently in work and are seeking career progression qualifications, studying part time.

However there is another group of students who enrich the college environment and who make a positive contribution to the very fabric of the college, the ‘recently retired’.

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This important, energetic, experienced group of people come to college to ‘study for leisure’ on a range of personal development courses, usually enrolling for the type of course that when working would not have been possible due to an array of reasons.

The college has ‘recently retired’ students studying painting, drawing, dressmaking, pattern cutting, photography, welding and ceramics to name but a few.

Knaresborough’s own Deputy Mayor David Goode was one of our ‘recently retired’ students who undertook a welding course to enable him to work on his own motorbikes.

Not only do students acquire new skills but they quickly establish new friendship and social groups.

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The college respects and understands the importance of providing a service to the whole community and positively welcomes those who have retired who are looking for new challenges and new circles of friends.

Additionally many of our students also actively engage with other available services in the college such as the various eateries particularly the wonderful Bistro on the Park which is the college’s popular training restaurant.

The personal interest course becomes a social event with new friends made and new skills being learned.

It is not just the college who can provide such services Harrogate and Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service’s new website ( offers a wealth of information and opportunities for people coming up to retirement.

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Its volunteering directory contains more than 400 opportunities to get involved with local charities and the new Where to Turn directory is packed full of information about local groups and activities.

From social events to dance clubs and photography societies, it’s a great place to start to find out what is going on in your local area.

So why not step out of your comfort zone? Come along and join one of our classes and/or use the commercial services (heavily discounted) such as the services in the hairdressing salons, relaxing and pampering beauty treatments and the delicious fayre in the Bistro on the Park.

If you would like to discuss options and opportunities further, please contact Julie Stephenson on 01423 878339 or course information on 01423 878211.