U 3rd Age offers writing workshops and arts courses for people over 50

Mr Thomas Kuan.
Mr Thomas Kuan.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Mr Thomas Kuan is 72 and has held several jobs in his lifetime, including at his father's insurance agency, in the telecoms industry and as an industrial engineering trainer.

However, all his life, he has wanted to be a writer.

Inspired by an international movement for lifelong learning, U3A, he set up the U 3rd Age company, which offers writing workshops and other arts and craft courses for people older than 50.

The 15 facilitators who conduct these courses are also over the age of 50.

Mr Kuan says: "My challenge is telling seniors, 'You are still young. Why do you want to give up on learning?'"

He adds: "There are millions of people from 50 to 90 years old. We are more than the young people."

The lifelong learning movement U3A organises rambles, games and lectures for active-agers in Singapore.

Mr Kuan's U 3rd Age focuses on activities such as music appreciation, painting or learning to write memoirs. Its work is supported by active-ageing agency C3A.

The more you are learning, the better, especially for older people. Your mind is focused and you are creating something new

MR THOMAS KUAN, 72, who runs U 3rd Age, a company which offers writing workshops and other courses for people older than 50

 
 

Mr Kuan runs the company with the second of his three daughters, 39-year-old Carol.

Their clients range from those aged 50 to more than 80 years old. Some are mobile, others are wheelchair-bound. Some are housewives, others are retired or semi-retired professionals.

They connect through art and the Kuans have seen, for example, how participants afraid of social media get help navigating the Internet from more savvy peers.

"The more you are learning, the better, especially for older people. Your mind is focused and you are creating something new," says Mr Kuan. He has a master's degree in education, training and development from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom.

After training to teach people to write their autobiographies, he led memoir-writing workshops with The Arts House from 2014 to last year.

Writing memoirs is an intense and engaging process, he says. "One of my students cried in class," he recalls. "He was the principal of a school and he couldn't stop thinking about his mentors and the people who helped him get to this stage."

His own memoir is still in progress.

"When you write your memoir, you understand yourself," he says. "Maybe in the past, your parents whacked you and you didn't know why. Now you go back and realise they should have whacked you more."

Akshita Nanda

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Write to understand yourself'. Print Edition | Subscribe