25 February 2011

Older, wiser, and veggier? AARP touts Meatless Mondays

The nonprofit American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the leading advocacy group for the over-50 crowd, has embraced the Meatless Mondays movement. In doing so, it's sending its members a powerful, positive message about veggie-centric diets—for people of every age bracket.

AARP is among the country's largest and most influential organizations. Boasting over 40 million members, it has an online community of nearly 300,000, and its bi-monthly journal is the highest circulation magazine in the U.S.

But it's not just size that makes AARP such a force. A 2008 public opinion poll found that AARP was one of the nation's most credible high-profile organizations, with only the Red Cross and Consumers Union ranking above it for trustworthiness.

This means that AARP's endorsement of Meatless Mondays is likely to have an enormous effect. An article on the group's website extols the health benefits of meat-free eating:

An ever-growing body of research indicates that for those who battle high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and cancer, a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts can aid in reversing the symptoms.

As AARP explains, seniors are especially affected by these health issues, giving them extra incentive to go meatless. And the group singled out the institutional food service provider Sodexo for special praise, declaring it "good news" that Sodexo is "rolling out a Meatless Monday option for its senior living community clients."

If seniors adopt Meatless Mondays as an easy and healthful eating regimen, it's likely they will continue moving toward a more plant-based diet overall. (Studies consistently demonstrate the validity of the "foot-in-the-door" effect—meaning that those who make small changes now are more likely to make bigger changes later on.)

Those full-time vegans and vegetarians who might want to dismiss the impact of Meatless Mondays should think again. Every 8 seconds another American turns 50, and the over-50 age group makes up nearly a quarter of the U.S. population and controls over 30 percent of its discretionary income.

All of these seniors need to eat. And whether they do that in their own homes, in retirement communities, or in restaurants, the choices they make will have a far-ranging influence on the kinds of foods we'll all be seeing on our grocery store shelves and local eateries.

Going meatless…it's not just a youth movement anymore.

Elizabeth Gordon | Facebook
Elizabeth is an Asian-Appalachian writer, activist, and college professor living in north central Massachusetts. Once an avowed carnivore, she was a vegetarian for 15 years before making the conversion to veganism. She is passionate about trying to live a life that lessens, rather than contributes to, the amount of cruelty and suffering in this world. Follow Elizabeth on her Vegosphere blog and Facebook page.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/eprater