She Went Vegan at 82 and It Changed Her Life for the Better

|Updated Jun 24, 2022
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Not everyone is able, or willing, to change their ways in their 60s or even their 70s, but one woman did it in her 80s, becoming fully vegan, and it opened up her world to a host of other new possibilities. Here's how going vegan changed one woman's life, as told to The Guardian earlier this week.

Frances Day, a self-described traditional housewife, changed her life and went vegan at 82 after her husband passed away, and she says it has made her bolder, more outspoken, and open to new ideas.

Day had been caring for her husband who was suffering from dementia and whose life had become limited to just one room and eating off a tray, at the outset of the pandemic back in 2020. As COVID-19 started to sweep the globe, her husband got sick and died from the virus, leaving Day herself to ponder what was next, and feeling sad and adrift.

It was the start of the pandemic, so a funeral was out of the question, she told an interviewer recently. “It was a horrid, horrid time. I was on my own. It took a long time for me to get fairly steady,” and back to a healthy routine.

She turned 82 that same summer and thought: “I’ve got to do something. I don’t want my life to end now. I want to have a few adventures. Let’s start with veganism.”

Two of her three grown children had become vegan and Day herself had already begun tasting and trying new vegan foods, including cheese and meat substitutes, but her husband had been a traditional meat eater and she could have never considered going fully vegan while he was still alive.

At times she would make him eggs and not eat them herself, or she would try serving him the occasional meatless crumbles, but without telling him they were vegan since it would have meant immediate rejection of the meatless substitutes. “If ever he heard the word ‘vegan’, he would refuse to eat it,” she says. But the idea of delving fully into the vegan lifestyle was not an option until she found herself living alone.

Once she had a new life to ponder, at the young age of 82, Day allowed her worldview to widen, and going vegan was the first step toward a new, bolder broader outlook that has opened her up to other new ideas. In an extensive interview with The Guardian, writer Paula Cocozza interviewed Day for a column on life after 60 and learned how this simple dietary change of going vegan has helped improve Day's life, including her health and her outlook.

‘I became a vegan at 82 and found a new sense of freedom’

Day describes herself as “very much the old-fashioned wife – I would never think of doing anything my husband didn’t want” she told The Guardian in a column about life after 60. After her husband died, she informed her three children: “I’m going to try to lead a vegan lifestyle”, and they were “very, very pleased”. They bought her vitamin B12 since many people on a vegan diet find it challenging to get enough vitamin B12 through diet alone.

Day had grown up in a strict household, with a father in the Royal Air Force, so when she could get married she left home and began life as a teacher, in the math department since that is where her talents were needed. But she always felt a passion for art and geography. Her life had been all about pleasing others. Now, at 84, she is out to make herself happy.

She married at 21 and had two children and was often left on her own with them since her husband traveled for his job. That suited her fine, as it turned out. “I quite enjoyed that. I was free. I’m sure this is what in my life I’ve always wanted – a certain amount of freedom.” She started a play group with a few other moms and they ran it as a small community project.

Day later divorced her first husband at age 34 and married again at 37, and ended up having a third child with her second husband. “It would bring us all together,” she explains. They traveled as a family, spending time in Singapore and Hong Kong, and visiting Malaysia, and her memories of those trips had a role in her deciding decades later to go vegan.

When they were on a beach one trip, and her children were young, they went out during the night to watch sea turtles clamor up onto the sandy beach to lay their eggs in the dark. She recalls that locals were less sensitive to the natural wonder they were witnessing.

"A lot of young men were chasing them and sitting on them, these giant turtles,” she recalls. It made her children so upset that she believes that may have been the start of their animal welfare awareness, and ultimately led them to become vegan later in life.

Day explains that becoming vegan has opened her eyes to the plight of farmed animals and made her bolder, more outspoken, and truer to her own thoughts.

She admits that now she “can’t really enjoy looking at lambs in a field. "I just think, there they are skipping around fields, not knowing what fate befalls them. It’s absolutely awful.”

Day's vegan lifestyle has also made her feel like she can speak up in public for the first time in her life, she says. At her local social get-togethers, life is different now. “They all know I’m vegan and have got used to me looking suspiciously at the backs of packets of biscuits.” She is sparking others to try vegan treats, and one made vegan cupcakes to share, she says.

At 84, Looking Forward to Giving Back

Day will turn 84 this summer and says she is loving keeping “a vegan household … I’m feeling more and more my own person. Probably more than I ever was. It’s taken a long time.

"I think, I can’t have that much time left. I’m going to make the most of it,” she told The Guardian.

What does she want to do with her newfound independence? “Be kind and helpful and a good friend to the few I’ve got, be there for anybody who needs me. And point out a way that I think is healthy and gentle.”

For more success stories of how a plant-based lifestyle can lead to health and wellbeing, check out The Beet's Success Stories.