Going Vegan After 50

Photo Credit: Meg Birnbaum

By changing your diet, you can change the world—at any age—according to Carol J. Adams, Patti Breitman, Virginia Messina, authors of Never Too Late to Go Vegan.

The problems in the world today need our wisdom and our compassion. And there is no better place to begin to exercise these qualities than in our kitchens. Once we step out of our role as consumers in the system that causes suffering in animals, we can begin to nurture that warm connection to the other beings with whom we share our planet.

You don’t have to become an activist, holding signs at protest marches (although some of us choose that route). You merely have to acknowledge that living beings are hurt when we choose to eat their body, milk or eggs, and then act in a way that no longer hurts these beings.

As vegan consumers we are conscious of the impact of each purchase on other beings. As animal lovers we are aware of the lives and deaths of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats, lambs, and sheep when we look at a menu, ingredient list, or clothing label. We make choices that matter to these beings. We try our best to live with conscious awareness and thoughtfulness. We use our intention to be kind to other beings to bring about the world that we hope to create.

When we are in the second half of our life, through veganism we can discover ways of connecting or reconnecting to the entire world, to make a difference with every meal, to express our beliefs through our actions.

We may miss some of the central roles we once played as parents or as important cogs in the wheels of a working life. But now we see that the role we are called to as a steward of our planet, a protector of the defenseless, an advocate for wise, health-supporting choices, can be one of the most important and most effective (and delicious) roles of our lifetime. We have seen enough needless violence in our lives and we know the value of choosing another way.

We don’t need Congress to change the animal protection laws (though that would be ideal, as farmed animals are excluded from many of them, and birds are exempt from the few laws animals do have to protect them). We don’t need anybody’s permission to act. We simply stop eating animals and products made from animals and start eating plants.

Caring for a Meat Eater

In the best of times, one’s veganism may have been a source of contention—no matter that you are over fifty. During caregiving, which may not be the best of times (!), you may be asked to do something you haven’t done in years and that sunders your heart or that you find ethically challenging, such as serving hamburgers, scrambled eggs, or some other nonvegan food for someone you love.

This conflict may be one of the most difficult you will experience as a vegan.

Some of the things your care receiver loves to eat can be accommodated to a vegan diet with surreptitious changes—soups made with a vegetable base instead of chicken stock, breads (unless there is an absolute favorite), salads. You can also try a variety of vegetable-based main courses without calling attention to the fact that they are vegan.

But in the end, you may find that you are scrambling eggs for your loved one, making grilled cheese sandwiches, or even picking up a requested fast food. It is painful and yet you do it.

Excerpted from Never Too Late to Go Vegan: The Over-50 Guide to Adopting and Thriving on a Plant-Based Diet, by Carol J. Adams, Patti Breitman, Virginia Messina. The Experiment, 2014. Reprinted by permission.

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