Forbes College for Seniors

Let Learning Enrich our Lives

Newslink April 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus-19
We live in extraordinary times. But the coronavirus
pandemic has done nothing to stem the thirst of U3A
members across the State to continue learning and sharing
their knowledge and experience. Some of this experience is
described in this Newsletter and may provide ideas for other
Several U3A groups are trying video conferencing as a
replacement for live classes, as the coronavirus pandemic
has forced closure of their usual venues. Those U3As more
experienced and proficient in the use of Zoom are providing
technical advice and support to other U3As newly accessing
it: see the articles by Graeme Eggins in this issue.
Others are maintaining regular contact through email to send
and receive lessons in a range of subjects. Physical exercise
and yoga is promoted through YouTube clips. Virtual tours
are undertaken of major international galleries and museums.
Facebook pages provide an avenue to upload photographs
and to share practical advice about topics such as
birdwatching and photography.
Welfare officers in U3A groups keep regular contact with
members who live alone to maintain contact in times of
social isolation, especially those not familiar or comfortable
with modern technology. Electronic bulletins keep
members regularly informed of online activities and other
information of general interest in the wider world.
It is also an opportunity also for U3A Online, which offers
over 70 tutored courses, to fill some of the need for
structured study in a range of lifestyle, science, world affairs
and history courses: see further at p.8.
From the President’s Desk
We face an unknown future. Before Covid-19 (BC19) we knew what our
days would deliver but now we live with restrictions and without so many
of our usual expectations. After Covid-19 (AC19) we face the unknown
and hope our lives will get back to ‘normal’. But what is that ‘normal’
going to be?
Life is a mystery. It is a journey of experiences to challenge and enrich our lives. We have faced
may hurdles but none so challenging as Covid-19. Now our life is on ‘pause’ and we, from our
places of isolation and distance, must reinvent our daily routine. No longer can we move without
restrictions and make impulsive choices. Now we must abide by the Government’s directives or
pay the health or financial penalty. We miss contact with our family and friends, and forgo our
many activities be they physical, mental or social, especially our U3A courses.
But our wonderful U3A committees and course leaders are delving into the different ways of
keeping us connected and active. Newsletters, Trivia questions, phone calls and courses via Zoom
are all being developed to overcome the restrictions we now face. Online learning is another
avenue to explore with plenty of free courses of offer via the internet and courses offered by U3A
Online. Our U3As will not be beaten but will rise from the ashes of this pandemic stronger, more
creative and united. Together we will continue to make a difference in our communities.
Best wishes , Laurene Mulcahy
COVID-19 (coronavirus) scams
Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the spread of coronavirus to exploit and play on
the fears of consumers across Australia. Scamwatch has received hundreds of coronavirus-related
scam reports since the outbreak. Common scams include phishing for personal information, online
shopping, banking and superannuation scams.
Other scams include phishing emails and phone calls impersonating the World Health Organisation,
government authorities, including health authorities and the ATO, and legitimate businesses –
including travel agents and telecommunications companies.
 Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your
computer or device.
 Don’t open attachments or click on links in emails, text messages or social media messages
you’ve received from strangers — just press delete.
 Never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for personal or financial
details — just press delete or hang up.
If you think you have been scammed, you can make a report on the Scamwatch website, and find
more information about where to get help.
What some U3As are doing …..
Southlakes U3A
From Susan Coggan
Having implemented the new Network
Constitution, which allows for a committee of
7, we were in a good position to act quickly
and innovatively to these interesting times.
Immediately the committee contacted all nonemail members to ensure their safety and start
a Phone Tree Buddy system. Within 3 days
after course cancellations, “Staying in
Touch”, a 2-page weekly newsletter
developed to help maintain the group
connection and further engender a sense of
community, was sent to all members.
Member feedback confirms the newsletter is
an absolute winner.
By the 3rd week:
 The Book Lovers, Photography, Brain
Ticklers and French for Travellers course
leaders were using email to teach classes.
 A member of the Painting and Drawing
Art Group created a website for fellow
students so they could upload their work
for critiquing by their course leader.
 The committee held its first Zoom
meeting (with voting, lipstick and coffee
 The IT Officer/Webmaster was
organising Webinar training for leaders
 A retired couple wrote an article Times in
Adversity for distribution to our
members, to send a message of hope and
practical ideas. The article is available on
our website.
Next to roll out, for the incredible price of 30
cents a member, the committee purchased 5
courses from Online U3A, to provide
members with some interesting learning
Other opportunities are in the pipeline and
will continue to be rolled out as we move
through the social distancing isolation period
for however long that may be.
Our grand finale at the end of this period, just
prior to resumption of classes and activities,
will be a picnic sing-a-long to celebrate the
sense of our connection and strength of
U3A Canberra
By Alex Gosman
The U3A Weston Book Club, established
nearly thirty years ago is running two email
streams to maintain contact. In the first, Book
of the Week, a nominated discussant reviews
a book, which members then discuss. The
second email stream, Conversation, covers
general reading matters (e.g. new books,
books to read in self-isolation). The Club is
also considering on-line conferencing

The Seminal Years of Music course
general email on music is receiving a lot of
attention. Members contribute articles/items
of interest – many pandemic parodies (to the
tunes of “I can’t get no satisfaction” and
“Bohemian Rhapsody”), cover versions etc.
A second email stream will be introduced to
enable members to nominate their Self
Isolation Discs – similar to BBC radio
program Desert Island Discs – where a guest
nominates the 8 records they would take to
self isolation. One of the convenors and well
known Canberra music buff, David Kilby
will kick of this selection.

Some language courses are using free video
conferencing facilities Zoom and Jitsi. They
find it works relatively well for small
groups. Google Hangout and Moodle are also
Bathurst U3A
From Allison Aspden
The tutor teaching ‘Conversational Spanish’
has set up an email group with students
(about 8 members). This tutor emails
‘homework’ to the students. They undertake
the homework – email their effort back to
him. And he continues on, sending out the
next Lesson.
Ballina/Byron U3A
From Sue Bell
Our wonderful Tutors have come up with a
number of ways to stay connected with their
 Cryptic Crosswords are being emailed
out to participants on a weekly basis;
 Birdwatchers are receiving 5 pictures of
unnamed birds with information about
where the pictures were taken. Members
then have to identify the birds;
 Our Exploring Books and Creative
Writing groups are circulating class
members reports and writings for
 Those learning Italian are receiving
exercises by email;
 Our craft group is circulating a weekly
newsletter with news from participants,
jokes and recipes; and
 Even our Belly Dancing teacher is
sending out You Tube links for members
to practice with.
We run a couple of classes at Mullumbimby
and they are also staying connected:
 For Music Appreciation, various pieces
of music are sent fortnightly in the form
of a link for the members to access and
listen to together with a short explanation
and discussion; and
 For Poetry, members contribute poetry
for group discussion and enjoyment on a
regular basis. All poems submitted are
collected in a folder for eventual printed
distribution when U3A Ballina/Byron
recommences classes.
Newcastle U3A
By Wendy Hammond
Five members of our ukulele group from the
Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest area have been
attending the Music Theory 408 course in
New Lambton. Once the lessons were
suspended, we quickly decided to created a
Skype group so we could continue to study
Our initial Skype hook-up went well as we
reviewed the course from the very beginning
to ensure everyone was clear on the lessons
so far. Our instructor, Susan Coggan, has
been sending out helpful instructions so that
we can continue progressing through our
worksheets with further explanations,
resources and group emailed answers to any
questions. These has been very helpful and
much appreciated.
Members have been able to ask questions
where they are feeling lost. Other members
have been able to respond to those questions.
Sometimes words are lost if more than one
person is talking as we learn how to
efficiently use the technology, to have only
one person talking at the same time.
However, we have discovered that it is
impossible to play along together because of
a delay in transmitting just a few seconds out
of sequence so it is only good for chatting
and theory.
U3A Cygnet (Tas)
By Glenn Sanders
U3A Cygnet has shut classes for the duration,
but we are staying in touch with most of our
members by Mailchimp emails. I’ve started a
regular “Things to do” weekly message and
we are encouraging all members to
Our Writers Group coordinator is sending out
weekly emails with links to video lessons he’s
found on the web, with instructions to his
members on exercises they can do and email
to him for comment.
Our Book Club members are exchanging
reviews etc via email and may switch to
Facebook. At the moment we have only one
Facebook group but may add specialised ones
later for Book Club, and our very active
Garden and Gourmet people.
Northern Illawarra U3A
From Ainslie Lamb
We have about 250 members, most but not all
on email. Our first response to the
cancellation of our venues for classes was to
consider a range of options available to
enable members to stay connected and to
continue to enjoy learning activities. A
newsletter advising of these options was
promptly issued, and will continue with
updates monthly. Older members who live
alone are regularly contacted by phone.
Several of our Special Interest groups are
maintaining regular email contact to continue
to share their interests – the Brain Games
group has doubled its membership overnight!.
The Classics Book Club has adopted Zoom to
conduct its monthly discussions, but other
groups are waiting to see how this works.
Members are encouraged to develop new
skills of drawing and painting, making music,
and creative writing, utilising online
educational sources, with the prospect of a
Coronavirus Exhibition and Concert when
normal programming resumes.
In Times of Adversity
Stephen. a member of Southlakes U3A
shares his thoughts garnered by experience in
Lagos, Nigeria in the period of the Western
African Ebola virus epidemic (2013–2016).
He reminds us that this was the most
widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease
(EVD) in history. Worldwide, 28,646 people
were infected and 11,323 died.”
Download In Times of Adversity – a Nigerian
experience. at


Stephen’s sharing of his personal experience
and thoughts about the process we are
‘journeying through’ will add a dimension to
our first-world event by looking at a thirdworld experience. He gives us some
“takeaways” that maybe helpful for us all to
ponder in our current situation.
Maintaining an Exercise Routine
Several U3A’s use the Network DVD
Balance’n’Bones as a regular exercise class.
With enforced isolation, demand for the DVD
from individuals has increased so members
can do their exercises at home, like Ian and
his pet cockatiel …
The exercise program was devised and is
presented by Beth Denny, an experienced and
qualified fitness instructor, especially for
older people, to strengthen bones and
Individual copies of the DVD are available
for sale at $25 each, inclusive of postage
For copies, contact Ainslie Lamb, 12 Station
Street, Corrimal NSW 2518, enclosing a
cheque or money order payable to the U3A
Network NSW Inc, for the relevant amount.
If you prefer to pay by direct deposit,
contact for further
The next edition of Newslink will be out in
June. Keep sending in stories of how your
U3A is continuing to operate. Deadline for
copy is 31st May. Send to
U3A Zooms back into life
by Graeme Eggins, Northern Rivers U3A
How Zoom works
The U3A leader (called a host) registers with
Zoom and books a virtual room at a
convenient time and date. It is much the same
as booking a reception room in a hotel for a
(To minimise confusion, tutors may prefer to
schedule online meetings at exactly the same
time and day of the week as the real meetings
have been held pre-Coronavirus.)
The host then sends an email inviting
students to attend and giving them a link to
use on that day. When students click on that
link they are prompted to download Zoom to
their own device if they have not already
done so.
Next, the student’s screen changes to reveal a
chequerboard of rectangular windows
containing a live view of all the students so
far assembled.
As more students log in, the programme
automatically reduces the size of each
person’s screen so that each become
progressively smaller.
On most tablets, some participants will be
moved to the next screen so that individual’s
faces don’t become too small.
Alternatively, each viewer can choose a
different view, say of the speaker of the
moment taking up two thirds or more of the
screen and a film strip of views of everyone
else rolling across the top.
Everyone attending can see, hear and talk to
all the others.
You can imagine the shambles if you have a
class of say 15 people with everyone talking
or gesturing at once. Luckily the meeting host
has power to switch off all or individual
microphones if they think the meeting is
becoming chaotic.
Meetings don’t have to be visual – you can
have audio-only chats.
How it all started
Zoom began nine years ago as a
communications tool for big business and big
education. Social distancing has seen its
popularity soar..
Why? Because it’s cross platform and offers
a free version. It doesn’t matter if you are
using a desktop, a laptop, a tablet or smart
phone, Zoom will work for you. It runs on the
Windows and Apple operating systems, plus
It is comparatively stable. If a student is on a
poor Internet connection, they can cut their
video link and just listen in and comment.
The free version of the programme allows
you to host up to 100 participants (you can
have unlimited 1 on 1 meetings), run video
conference for up to 40 minutes each session
for no charge and schedule an unlimited
number of meetings.
You pay a monthly fee for longer single
sessions and bonus features such as hosting
up to 1,000 video participants and 10,000
The future
Classes may face download problems in the
future as more and more groups like U3A
join traditional video conferencing users,
putting increasing pressure on existing
Members have been invigorated by online
meetings. In my admittedly limited
experience I have found online meetings to
be an absolute boon for members who feel
trapped in their homes by Covid-19 fears,
unable to go out and mix with the U3A
By going online, they can see one another
and share all in-jokes and chat that makes
U3A activities so enjoyable for we older
U3A specialist classes with fewer than 25
members seemed most likely to benefit from
using Zoom. For example, groups discussing
books, languages, investment, genealogy,
photography, science and technology.
Pros and cons of Zoom
Pros include:
 Free version suits most U3As
 Easy to use and join. Get Zoom apps for
portable devices though Google Play or
the Apple App Store. Download
desk/laptop versions from
 Suits both NBN and ADSL2 connections
 Ability to send text messages and to all or
just one or two of your fellow students
 Exchange files and photos with others
during meetings
 Zoom allows participants to drop in a
background of their choice. Some of the
more elaborate backgrounds Zoom offers
as a default can cause screen distortion if
participants hold up an item to show to
others online.
 Zoom offers much helpful information
online for hosts and participants. Access
Zoom’s training Webinars on
(Class leaders are wise to encourage
students to have practice sessions with
friends and relatives before trying U3A
online classes).
Cons include:
 The internet may be intermittent. By the
end of March The New York Times
reported that the volume of messages sent
via Facebook and Instagram had grown
more than 50 percent in countries that
ordered people to stay home amid the
coronavirus outbreak. Providers are
rushing to add extra capacity.
 Zoom and similar programmes may
deplete batteries in some tablets and
smart phones quite quickly. Plug into
mains power if possible.
 People with slow/intermittent Internet
connections may experience problems.
Uses may counter by shutting down
unnecessary apps/tabs/open sites in
browsers to maximise download speed. A
personal hot spot may be used but can be
 Smart phones are fine but older people
usually prefer looking at larger screens
 Zoom has been criticised for sloppy
programming leading to security and
privacy problems. The company has
switched all its resources to fixing these
The Australian Cyber Security Centre urges
video conferencing hosts to protect against
hackers and online pests.
Hosts can do this by:
 Telling students to be aware of their
surroundings to accidentally broadcast
private or sensitive details in their
background. Students should use a
private room and headphones if possible.
 Allowing only invited participants to join
the meeting. Meeting passwords should
be enabled by the host.
 The programme has recently changed
some protocols so that now invitees will
go automatically into a virtual waiting
room so the host can check before he/she
lets them into the actual meeting.
 Make sure Screen Sharing is set to
Host only.
 Hosts need to make sure they and their
students have the latest version of Zoom
(and other programmes) installed as well
as the latest security updates for their
How do you look your best on screen?
by Graeme Eggins
A video meeting, even though you may be
alone, replicates a public meeting. So behave
as if you had suddenly replaced your
favourite news reader on TV.
These tips apply to all video conferencing
programmes, not just Zoom.
Set the scene
Where you put your laptop or phone makes
more difference to how you’ll look on camera
than what you’re wearing.
Try and put your computer/tablet/phone near
a window. Natural light is preferable to
Ensure your face is always evenly lighted, not
in shadow on one side.
Position your device’s camera at or just
above eye level, if necessary by putting it on
a stable pile of books. Move yourself
slightly further away from it so that your
features are not distorted.
Never position your device so that it is
looking directly up your nostrils. Apart from
this not being an attractive sight, the tilt-up
position also emphasises your neck and chin.
You also might cause a lens flare by showing
a ceiling light.
Check what’s in the background. One U3A
member appeared on Zoom with what looked
like giant antlers growing out of his skull. He
was sitting directly in front of a stuffed
moose’s head hanging on his wall.
Zoom allows you to drop in a background of
your choice – e.g. a beach. Another member
was distracted and ended broadcasting from
what appeared to his bathroom, except the
toilet was upside down on the ceiling.
Check the foreground as well before logging
in. No want wants to see your messy lunch
Act like a newsreader
Wear whatever you would normally wear to a
U3A gathering.
Ladies should know that spots, stripes and
brightly patterned tops do not show up well
on camera. Stick to neutral colours.
Same rule applies to men. Do not wear a
formal shirt with footy shorts and thongs.
Sure, people can’t see that when you are
sitting down, but what happens if you have to
get up to answer the door?
Remember, people are watching you. Try not
to eat, drink or attend to personal hygiene on
camera. Wait till after the meeting.
And of course, don’t ever touch your face!
U3A Online –
U3A Online originated in Australia in 1998,
as an acknowledgement that although a local
U3A is the best way to meet with like-mnded
other people, there are those who are isolated
by distance or other physical or social
circumstances. It’s another option for both
U3As and individuals to adopt if they want
guided structured courses during the current
pandemic (and beyond).
Membership is open to anyone over 40, and
younger disabled people and their carers. It
costs only $30 p.a. and all courses are then
free to the member in that year. U3As can
also become organisational members for $15
p.a. then pay $20 per course to use with their
own members who do not have to register as
individual members.
There are over 70 courses available, in World
Affairs, Politics, History, Science, Nature,
Life Matters, Literature, Writing and
Creativity. The list goes on.
U3A Online also provides GEMS – a free
monthly e-newsletter containing reviewed
links to resources, interesting research
snippets for health and lifestyle, fun items
and technical advice. Register via the U3A
Online website.
Errata – the item on Crime Writing in the
March edition of Newslink was by Julie
Fitzpartick of Port Sorell U3A.
10 of the world’s best virtual museum
and art gallery tours
By Antonia Wilson, Guardian, 24 Mar 2020
The originals are out of reach for now, but
you can still see world-class art – without the
queues or ticket prices – with an online tour
of these famous museums
Art lovers can view thousands of paintings,
sculptures, installations and new work online
– many in minute detail – as well as explore
the museums themselves. There are various
platforms: from interactive, 360-degree
videos and full “walk-around” tours with
voiceover descriptions to slideshows with
zoomable photos of the world’s greatest
artworks. And many allow viewers to get
closer to the art than they could do in real
J Paul Getty Museum Los Angeles –
Guggenheim, Bilbao –
Natural History Museum, London
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam –
National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art,
South Korea –
Musée d’Orsay, Paris
British Museum
MASP, São Paulo, Brazil
National Gallery, London www.
See also National Gallery of Victoria –

Virtual Tours

You can also tour the Courtald Gallery in
London with Bill Nighy on YouTube
And now for something completely
different ….
Thanks to Cygnet U3A for this item:
The Coffin Club of Rotorua
Thanks to Meander Valley U3A for this item:
And if you are missing live sport on TV,
watch BBC sports commentator Andrew
Cotter’s Labradors Olive and Mabel engaged
in a quiet power battle over an orange rubber
bone … google those words and the video
clip will come up.
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman
walk into a bar …. Oh, wait… that’s 3 people
This game helps scientists design
COVID drugs. They want you to play
By Liam Mannix Your Life Choices, March
31, 2020
If you like solving puzzles, scientists want
your help to start designing potential drugs to
combat the coronavirus using a game you can
play on your computer.The citizen-science
project, known as Foldit, hopes to start
turning designs into actual drugs within a
Asking untrained people to design drugs
sounds like pie in the sky. But the science
behind the project is very real, independent
researchers told The Age and The Sydney
Morning Herald.
“The lab behind it, led by Professor David
Baker, is possibly the best equipped in the
world to design a protein,” says Associate
Professor Ashley Buckle, a protein engineer
based at Monash University.“The approach
has been shown to work. Not always. But
there is a good chance it will.”
Foldit is among the world’s most-successful
citizen-science projects. It challenges users
to solve 3D puzzles by finding ways to fit
complex shapes together, or build their own
new shapes – a cross between 3D Tetris and
Minecraft. Those shapes are proteins, the
building blocks of the human body.
The program, originally co-ordinated by
Professor Baker’s Institute for Protein Design
at the University of Washington, has been
running for more than 10 years and has a
string of successes behind it – such
as building a protein 20 times more efficient
than one designed by scientists,
or cracking the shape of another protein
important to AIDS drugs. Scientists had been
trying to do it for a decade but Foldit players
did it in days.
How does solving puzzles bring us closer to a
COVID-19 cure?
Our cells are covered in “cellular receptors” –
think of them as little antennas that listen for
signals from the body. SARS-CoV-2, the
virus that causes COVID-19, has a long spike
that is perfectly shaped to stick on to one
particular receptor, like a key sliding into a
lock. But if you could make a drug that sticks
onto that spike, in effect gumming it up, you
could stop the virus infecting people.
Foldit presents players with a 3D model of
SARS-CoV-2’s spike. The goal: build a
protein that will stick onto it. It’s much
harder than it sounds. Your drug needs to
bend around and stick to the extremely
complex structure of the spike. Natural
selection has finely honed the spike so it
sticks perfectly onto our cells – so your drug
needs to stick even more perfectly to the
spike. The problem is often left to
supercomputers, which can use raw
computing power to quickly try millions of
different shapes. But they have their limits.
Humans can learn from their failures and
have something supercomputers don’t:
creativity. That’s what gives Foldit its real
So far, they’ve had a few thousand people
submit solutions for the COVID puzzle using
different shapes. But every extra person helps,
says Dr Koepnick. The team will select the best
protein shapes soon and begin building them in
the lab within the next few weeks. Then they
will be tested against SARS-CoV-2 in a lab –
and if they find one that works, the drug will go
on to other scientists for further testing and
possible clinical trials.
To have a go yourself, go to