As I (Cindi Saadi) finish up my last week working with FARM and my last official post for the FARM Blog, I decided to share a few thoughts about a topic not often specifically discussed: the importance of vegan outreach for seniors in our communities. On the heels of a very successful Meatout campaign packed with so much passionate vegan outreach, I want to highlight some of the significant benefits of including seniors as part of the vegan outreach audience. And for purposes of this post, “seniors” are people age 60 and over.
Vegan outreach activities are frequently focused on the younger crowd and for reasons that make good sense. After all, young people are forming and refining their life beliefs and tend to be more open to considering new concepts and challenging traditional models. The younger years are an ideal time to become aware of the impact of diet on our health, the animals, and our global environment, and to make beneficial changes. And of course, young people have a lifetime ahead of them to affect change for future generations.
Although many outreach efforts do not set out to exclude any group of people, one concern is the risk of limiting vegan outreach for seniors because of assumptions that they are less open to new ideas and less willing to change. Although this may be true in certain cases, it is not true across the board. Seniors may have well-established beliefs, but everyone is capable of change. When presented with real, compelling information, most seniors will consider it thoughtfully. And as far as a senior having less time ahead of them than a younger individual, see the section below about people with incredible accomplishments after age 60. Plus, each moment we have is precious, no matter what age.
So seniors might be a more challenging audience, but the benefits of including them, in my opinion, are well worth it and can have significant positive outcomes for the vegan/animal rights cause.
And one thing is certain…. the animals want EVERYONE to hear the vegan message, no matter how young or old we are!
Here are a few of the benefits to / reasons for including seniors in vegan outreach:
WISDOM: Seniors have a wealth of invaluable life wisdom to offer. I often wonder how my father keeps such a library of information in his head, from important facts to solutions to your everyday household emergency. I can often skip the Internet and simply call Dad. People in other countries (perhaps more so than in the U.S.) revere, protect, and respect their elderly community members and place great value on their contributions and wisdom. Thus, given the many significant health-related benefits of a plant-based diet, introducing senior folks to a vegan lifestyle would likely increase the amount of time we have our wise ones with us. And having them with us, fortifies us.
AMAZING ACHIEVEMENTS: How many people have achieved some of their greatest accomplishments after turning 60 years young? It’s never too late to make a HUGE contribution to a cause or movement. At 61, Mahatma Gandhi and his followers marched 240 miles in 24 days to make their own salt from the sea in defiance of British colonial laws and taxes. Benjamin Franklin was in his seventies when he helped draft the Declaration of Independence and was 81 when he signed the U.S. Constitution. Ronald Reagan was governor of California in his fifties and sixties and became U.S. president at age 69. Former cattle rancher, Howard Lyman, went vegan in his early fifties and has since made important contributions for the animals, public health, and the environment. In addition, consider the vital work that leaders such as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (vegan at 51), Dr. T. Colin Campbell, and many others have done and continue to do, in their later years and as vegans. Check your area theaters for the powerful film, Forks Over Knives, (featuring Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell).
INFLUENCE: A senior’s decision to transition to a vegan diet can have a significant impact on a wide-range of people. If the senior is a public figure, this sphere of influence is even larger. Consider the far-reaching effects of President Clinton’s recent lifestyle changes. But even for a non-celebrity, the possibilities are endless. From the boardroom to the golf course to the community action group, the decisions seniors make are noticed by family, colleagues, friends, community members, and more. A younger person may have more Facebook “friends,” but a senior still has a rich web of personal relationships. They just aren’t all online (yet!). As Dr. Esselstyn and his wife adopted a plant-based diet, so did their children, and the vegan message truly became a powerful family affair! (Check out Rip Esselstyn’s story about taking plant-based health into the firehouse and beyond.)
RESOURCES: Seniors may have more resources and more powerful connections than the younger crowd has yet to attain. They may be better able to provide resources and support to make things happen on a large scale. A senior who chooses a vegan lifestyle may be involved with a non-profit or a large corporation or may choose to become involved in a very beneficial way. Or they may decide to start their own!
HEALTH CARE: Exposing more seniors to the benefits of a vegan diet can help everyone by lowering health care costs. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, lower weight, reduce the risks of osteoporosis, prevent and reverse Type II diabetes, and even prevent and reverse heart disease. (Plus much more!) Check out Dr. Esselstyn’s Web site and book about how conventional cardiology has failed patients by focusing on the symptoms of heart disease versus the cause. Visit Live Vegan for more info about the health benefits of a vegan diet.
ALL LIFE IS PRECIOUS: Animal rights advocates seek compassion and a free life for ALL beings, human animals included. And our compassion is not restricted or dictated by age or other characteristics. All life is precious and we want all beings to experience the longest, healthiest, most peaceful life possible.
PEACE: And speaking of peaceful lives. What better gift for anyone to receive than the peace experienced when practicing compassion for ALL beings? Time and time again I have heard vegans say (myself included) how much peace they feel knowing that their food choices are not contributing to the pain, misery, and deaths of billions of other sentient souls. My mother died young at age 60, and though I believe she would have eventually chosen a vegan lifestyle, she died without knowing that particular kind of peace. Who wouldn’t want each person to experience that gift before leaving this Earth?
I was thrilled to see at least one Meatout event this year held in a retirement community. Many of the residents had diabetes and other chronic health issues and the event coordinator was eager to provide information and options for improving quality of life, as well as introduce healthy, vegan foods to the residents. If you are interested in hosting a similar type of event, consider getting involved this year with Vegan Earth Day, or choose your own date and request educational information such as FARM’s Live Vegan brochure and additional handouts, and if possible, provide vegan food samples, (Contact VegFund for food support.). Films and presentations or book discussions are other great outreach options. You might also simply share the next issue of Meatout Mondays with a senior in your world.
I hope that vegan outreach will always be extended to people of all ages so that everyone has an opportunity to make a difference for the animals, for their own health & well-being, and for the future of our planet.
I have enjoyed sharing thoughts and news with all of you via the FARM blog and appreciate your visiting and commenting. I look forward to our paths connecting in the future as we each continue our work for the animals! Peace!
~ Cindi Saadi for the FARM Blog