by Angela R.
Priya W., 60 years old, lives in a small Hessian town
Priya comes originally from a small village in the Pfalz, although she has now lived near Frankfurt am Main for many years. She is married, has three adult children (two daughters and one son) and 6 grandchildren.
Initially, she completed a degree in interior design, and then first worked for several years as an employee and later as a freelancer in architectural offices. Then she was many years (from 2001-2016) of her professional life working as an Administrative Specialist at U3L where she was responsible for the organisation of courses and the course catalogue.
Now in her late 50s, Priya has decided to stop her professional career and Priya retire before her normal retirement age. This decision was not easy for her and in this interview, she talks about this:
"I decided to take this step, now that I am still fit & healthy to find new perspectives as well as a new challenge. I wish to shape my life for myself.”
The post-professional period, the so-called "retirement", does not mean stagnation for her, but rather a time to re-discover her own abilities and talents. Priya continues to be involved in many ways and has a lot to do in and around her big house. She meets regularly with friends and neighbours. She has very regular contact with her children and often looks after her grandchildren. She has also been engaged in painting for many years. She occasionally exhibits her works. Priya and her husband also enjoy travelling to campsites by the sea and, more recently, touring in their mobile home. Here the post-professional time offers them more flexibility, which they truly enjoy.
In addition to the desire for greater self-determination, the need for a more adapted rhythm of life has also played a role in Priya's decision.
She says about this in the interview:
"But I also notice how physical fitness changes with age. I now rather ask myself when it is enough and feel that it is important to integrate periods of rest into my life. Even with the grandchildren I tend to do calmer things than their parents."
Even though the professional phase of her life is over, it is still important for her to maintain a structure in her daily routine. She uses the time she gains to dispose of "burdens of the past", to do tasks that were left behind from the past. She also uses the "extra" time to be “in tune” with her own body, to keep physically fit, for example by doing yoga regularly.
When asked if she remembers a key experience that made her realize that the outside world perceives her as "old", Priya answers:
"Yes, I do remember one situation. About 10 years ago, I was in Berlin and walking in the street when a young woman - I don't remember why - said to me "Hey, old woman". It was the first time I was became conscious of my age and I was wondering, does she say this
because I look “old”? It made me sit up and take notice. A remark like that makes you realize that life and the energy to live life to the fullest is finite. It leads one to confront the finiteness. But at the same time, it makes it easier to realize that only being in the ´here & now´ really counts.”
Priya reports that among the physical changes that age brings for her, it is less the external changes, such as wrinkles and grey hair, that are a problem, but that when she does things in the garden, for example, she can no longer carry as much weight as she did before and that she has to learn to pace herself. That used to be different for her.
When asked how she would describe the current phase of her life, she answers:
"This is the best time for me, and I think it is getting better and better for me. I live from day to day. To have "more" time is a gift. Every working person can look forward to it."
About her memory of her own parents' aging, she remarks that they did not have this “feeling for life” and did not comment about this wish for “newness in life”. At first this also shaped her own image of old age: Old age as a time of isolation and uniformity. For Priya, this was due to the circumstances of her life in earlier years and she has since changed this view of life.
Her own mother is now 90 years old and lives far away in a nursing home in another federal state. She is physically limited and Priya feels that she is very self-centred and not very receptive to the outside world. Even though they cannot see each other so often, she is present in her thoughts and they do talk on the phone at least once a week. When asked if she could imagine herself living in a nursing home, she answers:
"No, I wish to live independently until death. I would like to die without medication, especially when I see how much medication my mother is taking. And I have the feeling that I will achieve this."
Asked what happiness means to her, she says:
"What is happiness for me? As a child, you have a material idea of happiness, you wish for a doll, a bicycle and things that make you happy... As a young person, the idea has changed, you wish for a beautiful car, a beautiful friend. And so, the idea of happiness changes a lot over the years.”
“Today I have the knowledge that I can find happiness within myself. Meanwhile happiness for me is being one with the moment and experiencing many such moments. Happiness for me is a place where I feel good. And happiness is when everyone is healthy."
At the end of the interview we asked her:
"Is there anything you would like to say to others as an ambassador?
(P. laughs...) "Yes, me as an ambassador: Just approach each phase of life calmly and don't struggle with what's going on, just accept what is happening. To accept the questions and things that challenge you. And to remain clam enough, to find the right way. “