A vegetarian retirement home
By Paul Appleby
According to a 2016 survey commissioned by The Vegan Society, 3.25% of Britain’s population, of whom around one-third are aged 50 years and over, are vegetarian or vegan. The same survey found that 542,000 Britons follow a vegan diet, and that 14% of these are aged 65 and over, equivalent to about 75,000 vegans of retirement age, with perhaps twice as many elderly vegetarians in the same age group.
So, there are plenty of us about, but is there the demand for an exclusively vegetarian/vegan retirement home? The Vegetarian Housing Association (VHA), established in the 1960s, provided sheltered accommodation for elderly veggies at premises in Sussex and North Wales. However, a lack of demand meant that the accommodation became decreasingly viable, the last of the homes closed in 2007, and VHA morphed into Vegetarian for Life (VfL), the advocacy charity for older vegetarians and vegans.
VfL has pursued a different strategy, aiming to raise the standards of catering for the estimated 6,500 vegetarians and vegans living in care homes, and encouraging independent living through grants and the provision of suitable ready meals by third parties (listed in the Dinners to your Door booklet). This is admirable, of course, but VfL have no plans (or the resources) to open a care home of their own, much less a vegetarian retirement home. (There are in fact two vegetarian care homes in Harrow, Middlesex, both aimed at the Hindu community, and tentative plans for another in East Sussex.)
So, where does that leave us? I’d like to see something akin to a vegetarian retirement village or community with additional care home facilities available, similar to those provided by Richmond Villages. This would almost certainly need the financial backing of a wealthy vegetarian or vegan entrepreneur, so it’s probably just a pipe dream of mine. In any case, would older vegetarians and vegans be prepared to leave friends and family behind and relocate to another part of the country? Maybe not, but if it worked (for a while at least) in the late twentieth century, when there were many fewer vegetarians and vegans than there are now, we should at least explore the possibility. What do other VfL supporters think?
Comment from Diane Moreton, Chair of Vegetarian for Life:
“The question of a vegetarian or vegan care home or any other kind of specific retirement accommodation is one that has long occupied our thoughts. I am sure that being in a place where being able to be vegetarian or vegan is 100% guaranteed is a very important consideration, but the other issues involved in choosing a care home include being close to friends and family and getting the right care for mental and physical conditions – such as dementia, diabetes, strokes (including re-ablement). Some people need to be resident in nursing homes, with a qualified nursing staff. Some extra care housing is provided for those with low level or no care needs. All these variable factors make it very difficult to have any certainty as to how viable a designated resource would be because the needs of potential residents are so wide-ranging.
The one area we have continued to keep under observation is supporting in some way a vegetarian and/or vegan co-housing development if such a project was ever to come to fruition, but there is no way that we could finance such a development and to commit a high level of funding would bring about the end of our work in the general population.
If anyone has a lead to a source of finance such a project we’d be delighted to be notified.