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Interviews with Vegetarian/Vegan Activists
September 2007


Interview about ‘Vegetarian For Life’, An Organisation for Older Vegetarians

Tina Fox - tinari@btinternet.com - is a long-time IVU Council member who recently became the first manager of Vegetarian for Life, an organisation that promotes the interests of older vegetarians. In this interview, Tina explains more about the organisation and why it is needed.

1. Congratulations on being the first manager of Vegetarian For Life, an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of older vegetarians and vegans in the U.K. Why is such an organisation necessary?

We feel that no one is really focussing on this issue as it is not sexy or exciting. We all get old one day, but most people prefer not to think about it, and it is rather the Cinderella of the veggie movement.

2. Can you please share a story of a typical older vegetarian?

I think there is no typical older vegetarian or vegan! Many folks are fit and active well into the 90's on such a diet, but others are not, and as many do not have children, they can be very vulnerable if they end up in residential care. We have heard of a few cases where older folk, particularly those with no relatives and perhaps failing mental capacities, were force fed meat, as the home couldn't be bothered. My own father when in hospital told me the tale of the elderly Hindu man in his ward who they would not feed and who became very distressed. That is a worst case scenario, but even best case can mean an unhealthy diet of constant pizza and macaroni cheese!

3. Are you mostly dealing with people who have been vegetarian for many years, or are there also many older people who have only recently decided to become vegetarian or to go from vegetarian to vegan?

Mostly long term vegetarian or vegan - you do get some older converts, but generally people get more set in their ways as they age. Some older veggies have worked hard for the movement in the years past when things were more difficult; we should look after their interests in return.

4. What are some blind spots that younger vegetarians and the general public might have about older vegetarians?

I think people forget that needs change - older people tend to eat more often but smaller meals and have some differences in their nutritional requirements. Additionally, the food they ate when younger may now be more difficult to digest, they are likely to be less active and they may have loss of appetite and need tempting. We have to consider all this when menu planning and cooking.

Younger vegetarians may also forget what a wonderful source of knowledge older vegetarians can be - I know of plenty such people from VSUK (Vegetarian Society United Kingdom), and I am sure the movement worldwide has similar national treasures!

5. What can vegetarian organisations do to attract older members and to encourage those older members to be active in the organisation?

I think we have to offer something in return - rather like Saga in the UK (an organisation for over-50s): www.saga.co.uk

We have to respect the needs of our elders and work on their behalf, and then they may take the organisations seriously. Of course, many older vegetarians and vegans are active and often more loyal than younger members who may only join an organisation for what they get out of it.

6. What future plans does Vegetarian For Life have?

We hope to have a guidance booklet available later this year primarily aimed at care homes, and we would be happy for it to be used and translated elsewhere once it is available. Thus, we encourage vegetarian organisations in other countries to stay in touch: tinari@btinternet.com