Happy retirement hinges on money

They are approaching or just over 65, the age that most experts consider the beginning of old age. The generation of the young elderly born in the 1940s is more active, both in the family and society. But for many, pension levels are forbiddingly low. Antonis Karayiannis, 60 years old today, was pensioned off two years ago by the bank where he had worked for 35 years. «I find it wholly inconceivable that I’ll be regarded as old in a few years’ time,» he said. «Lately, we’ve begun going on trips. We go to our villages. Indeed, my wife would like to live there permanently, but there’s no question of me agreeing. «Here in Athens, we know people and we visit each other; we go out from time to time to eat. I think if we went to live in the village, I would end up digging in the garden, and at present, that idea doesn’t appeal to me.» Sixty-three-year-old Irini Paritsi belongs to that category of grannies who play an active part in raising grandchildren, since both parents work. «I’m not complaining and I don’t regret it for a moment, I’m enjoying it! Of course, when my granddaughters were younger, I got very tired because I had to take care of the house and babies at the same time… for the second time round. «Now that they’re grown and going to school, things are much easier.» Last year, the young couple moved, nevertheless the children continued to go to the same school near grandma and grandpa. «At 12.15 p.m, I pick up Irini from preschool and at 12.45 p.m. I pick up Elena from primary school and I look after them till their parents return from work.» Vasso Zannaki, 59 years old, is one of the keenest members of the Third KAPI (old people’s drop-in centers) in the northern Athens suburb of Halandri. «I was below the permitted age limit when I joined, because my husband, who’s 87, is a disabled war veteran. And frankly, I regretted not going even earlier. There, I got to know people who live right next to me. Since then, my life has changed.» The program fills up the entire week. «Every Monday and Friday, I go to craft classes. Every Wednesday, we dance traditional dances. Both my husband and I attend choir regularly or just have a coffee with our friends. Others take part in drama groups. The trips are good too, but unfortunately, there weren’t many this year. Do you know how many people come here? The central KAPI in Halandri is full every day.» Chronis Papadakis and his wife Maria are 72 and 69 years old respectively. Pensioners of the self-employed fund TEBE, they have difficulties making ends meet. «It’s a good thing we have our own house, otherwise we’d be on the streets,» they say. Their two children have started their own families, but have not managed to make more money. «I wish we had the means to help them, to offer them something better than what we had ourselves,» Papadakis said. «But how, when we don’t have enough to live off ourselves? My wife looks after the child of a girl in the neighborhood to supplement our income. And at least we can still walk! What will happen later, I don’t know!» For people like the Papadakis couple, the future looks bleak. «I hear of pension increases, of measures… Something needs to be done. Tell me, how does one live on 400 euros a month?»