What do seniors do when they retire?

I have asked myself the above a few times. Of course there are those who throw themselves into a new career full of enthusiasm. Then there are those who are absorbed in looking after their grandchildren. And those who treat themselves to the trips of a lifetime.

As a long-standing, former member of the Naturalization Commission, I have repeatedly "stumbled" upon older people seeking naturalization. I therefore contacted Dr. Stefan Wehrle, the President of the Naturalization Commission, and wanted to find out more about the current state of affairs. The interview is conducted in the informal "du" form, as he was my "boss" in the commission for six years and we are still in relatively close contact via the Citizens' Community of the City of Basel.

Dear Stefan, there are always senior citizens who take the path to naturalization. Are there many of them?

There were relatively few foreigners last year: out of a total of 703 applications, 15 applications came from pensioners (7 women and 8 men, three of whom were over 70 years old). However, the percentage of pensioners among Swiss citizens who became Basel residents in 2020 was significantly higher, at 7 out of 86 applications; of these 5 women and 2 men, two women and one man were over 70 years old.

In this context, I would like to point out that since the beginning of the year, all recipients of supplementary benefits have only paid half the naturalisation fees to both the Citizens’ Community of the City of Basel and the Canton of Basel-Stadt.

Could it be that senior citizens appreciate the naturalization process? By that I mean the courses offered by the community?

The naturalization courses we offer, "Compact Course" and "Fit for Basel", are generally very popular. After the ceremonial presentation of the citizenship certificate in the town hall, all new citizens are invited to twelve exclusive offers under the title "Get to know Basel better" - this alone makes naturalization worthwhile!

As far as I know, there are also senior citizens sitting in both chambers of the Naturalization Commission (the time required is considerable!). How many are there at the moment?

Of the 12 Commission members, four are currently of retirement age.

Why do people still become naturalized in old age?

Primarily because of their emotional connection to Basel.

I have kept the application for naturalization of a hundred-year-old Swiss woman who wrote that her wish was to die a Basel native. 

Is the naturalization interview adapted to age?

Yes, our naturalization interviews with foreigners last around 15 minutes and are tailored to their individual circumstances, taking into account their age, origin, education, etc.

So are the more active people more likely to undertake this journey, which takes around two years?

Tendency is yes.

In Basel-Stadt, the entire naturalization process takes 16 to 18 months for foreigners and three to four months for Swiss citizens.

Are there institutions in the Basel community where senior citizens can actively participate?

I would like to point out the possibility of volunteering at the Bürgerspital. Around 100 women and men support the residents of our care centers and residential homes with their daily tasks or help to fulfill their individual needs and wishes:


Do you know seniors@work, www.seniorsatwork.ch ? What do you think of this platform?

This platform is also a great thing for both sides!

Dear Stefan, thank you for your detailed information and I wish you, the entire naturalization commission and the citizens' community of the city of Basel all the best. Stay healthy!


Beatrice Isler

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