Making a splash – Centenarian runs for office in German town

KIRCHHEIMBOLANDEN, Germany (Reuters) – For most people, reaching 100 would be reason enough to put one’s feet up and take things easy, but Lisel Heise has other ideas.

Lisel Heise, a 100-year old former teacher, listens to a reporter’s questions inside the living room of her house Kirchheimbolanden, Germany, April 11, 2019. The centenarian decided to engage in local politics and will run for city councillor in the upcoming local elections in Kirchheimbolanden on May 26. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

The German centenarian, a former sports teacher, has started a new chapter in her life by running for election to the council in her home town of Kirchheimbolanden.

She’s focusing her campaign on reopening the town’s outdoor swimming pool, which closed in 2011.

Heise has long been vocal in her efforts to resurrect it – she dislikes its replacement on the outskirts of town – but has found that, as an older woman, her opinions have often been ignored.

Now that she’s reached three figures, she hopes to turn age to her advantage.

“The microphone was often turned off when I started to speak about the swimming pool, and then of course you stop, there’s no point,” she told Reuters.

“But now that I’m 100, I’m in a different position. Now I have the chance to open my mouth and say something.”

The ballot is on May 26 and voters in Kirchheimbolanden, a town of some 8,000 in the south-western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, are starting to listen.

A well-known figure locally, Heise is running as a candidate for grassroots group “Wir fuer Kibo” (“Kirchheimbolanden is Us”), which campaigns for sustainable development and more civic engagement.

“We’re very happy to have Lisel Heise on board. She’s brought us publicity so we can communicate our goals better and get our message across,” said group board member Helga Buermann.

A grandmother and great-grandmother many times over, Heise’s main hope in running for office is that she can “finally do something for young people.”

And what of her wider political views?

“Brexit should never have been given a platform. And I find it splendid that young people are trying to tackle climate issues. One can only wish them every success in that venture.”

Whatever the result next month, Heise has some tips for anyone wanting to follow in her footsteps.

“To reach the age of 100, I tell everybody: live healthily when you’re young, do lots of sport, eat well and train your mind,” she said.

Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Katie Stephens; Editing by John Stonestreet

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