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Viva!’s Elders Who cares? We do!

Grants + Dinners to your door + veg-friendly travel + care homes that care. Viva! – in collaboration with Vegetarian for Life – can offer some amazing help and support for older vegetarians and vegans. By Amanda Woodvine, director, Vegetarian for Life

When Joyce went into care in 2007 after developing dementia, she was given meat to eat despite having been a dedicated animal rights campaigner. Staff essentially shrugged their shoulders and offered the excuse: ‘Well, she wouldn’t know any difference, would she!’ Joyce had no relatives to fight her corner and point out how unethical this was but… something really positive grew out of this awful disregard.

Vegetarian for Life (VfL) came into being to help protect all the other Joyces in care homes. So successful has it been that VfL now offers essential support for older vegetarians and vegans in their own homes as well as in care. Choosing a care home VfL’s 2014 survey discovered that around 6,500 vegetarians and vegans live in care homes and currently, there are no entirely veggie care homes in the UK. In a major first, VfL has produced a directory of care homes, retirement complexes, food suppliers and other services that have agreed to cater well and ethically for older vegetarians (and often vegans, too).

It is called the UK List and its goal is to improve the general standard of veggie catering. We already have over 800 listings, with a good geographical spread throughout the UK. You can search it on VfL’s website. If you’re looking for a care home, retirement scheme or a catering service we think you’ll find the UK List an invaluable resource. If you have contacts with any caterers who are not on the list, you could encourage them to become members.

Improving care home catering VfL also provides training for caterers through onsite classes and video training via a free DVD. Caterer training days include practical demonstrations and the opportunity for cooks to taste and assess the foods they have prepared. They learn about vegetarians and vegans, their nutrition and how to adapt recipes easily. We also offer recipes and menu planners to all who find them useful. We stress the right for residents to have their beliefs and cultural norms respected. Dinners to your door An estimated 300,000 elders in the UK are vegetarian or vegan, most in good health and who still cook for themselves.

Others are not so able and accessing care and good meals that don’t compromise their veggie principles is vital to them. To maintain their independence, others rely on community services such as ‘meals on wheels’. Having ready meals delivered direct to your home is an increasingly popular choice, particularly for those who are frailer. VfL’s newest guide shows how this is possible without compromising your veggie principles. The Dinners to your Door guide is available free of charge and features many leading companies that produce meals for home delivery. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available. Available chilled, frozen or even freeze-dried, they give choice, less waste and consequently less strain on your budget. Dinners to your Door also covers schemes that offer home-cooked food made by neighbours, for neighbours as well as explaining all about ‘meals on wheels’. Contact VfL to order the guide.

Will they feed me meat? I’m writing this during UK Carers Week – an annual campaign to recognise the difference that carers make to their communities. Its focus this year is on building Carer Friendly Communities – caring for the carers so they can continue to look after their loved ones well, while appreciating that carers are individuals with needs – and beliefs – of their own. This understanding is vital when beliefs differ between a carer and the person they look after. It’s what inspires VfL and why we are doing all we can to ensure that no one gets fed with food they consider unethical. A change of direction Perhaps you are gearing up to retirement and looking to travel or eat out more now you have that extra free time. You might be looking for inspiring (and easy) meals for one because your family has grown up and left home. Maybe you are adjusting to living on a pension and income is a little tight. Or perhaps you are looking for support with meals or care. VfL may be able to help in all of these situations.

Travel veggie wise VfL has an online community exclusively for older vegetarians. You’ll find it on our website, and it’s where supporters place their own recipes, travel reviews and foreign eateries. There’s also a community noticeboard which carries postings for such things as jobs in the care field. We also have a free electronic food magazine called eBites for older veggies and those who cater for them. It’s free to subscribe.
Visit our tablet and smartphone-friendly website. It includes an interactive blog, topical articles, and video clips – which will build over time. If you’re not online, you needn’t be left out. We’re working with the organisers of VegfestUK to pilot a Mature Zone at future shows – tipped to feature speeddating for the over 50s and more! You can also phone us for free hard copies of our online publications which include a catering guide for care homes, a healthy living handbook, and guides on nutrition and cooking on a budget – plus lots of festive recipes.

Grants Some elders find it increasingly difficult to stay in their own homes because of health or mobility problems. Financial assistance to remedy the situation is not always easy to find but we may be able to help. VfL makes charitable grants (not loans) to assist older vegetarians and vegans with independent living, like Shirley who was thrilled with her new lease of life from a mobility scooter; and Mrs P, who desperately needed kitchen and flooring repairs following a problem with damp. Please contact VfL for details and an application pack. If you’d like any support, or to volunteer your time, you can contact Vegetarian for Life at 83 Ducie Street, Manchester M1 2JQ, by visiting www.vegetarianforlife.org.uk, or by calling 0161 257 0887.