Some of the most vocal vegan activists argue that omnivores older than the age of 60 are unlikely to embrace a plant-based diet. However, in his book The Ageless Boomer, author Rod Fisher (check out his ageless photo here!) demonstrates that seniors—who face more potential health challenges than the rest of the population—will see even more dramatic benefits from a vegan diet than younger converts. Fisher, 70, went vegan in the 1980s following the premature deaths of both of his parents to cancer. Wanting to save his children from the same loss, he transformed his approaches to diet and exercise. These choices have produced remarkable results: currently, Fisher is free of diseases and medication, has boundless energy, and hasn’t been sick for 30 years. In order to find out how we can live long, healthy vegan lives, we spoke to Fisher regarding his book, his approaches to food and fitness, and how other seniors can achieve his great health and energy.
VegNews: You went vegan in the 1980s. Why did you decide to make the change, and how is living vegan now different than it was then?
Rod Fisher: I’ll be honest—it wasn’t easy back then. My physician—who was clearly way ahead of his time—told me that if I wanted to outlive my parents, I should seriously consider becoming vegan. At the time, I was a Wall Street executive working in the “age of greed,” so this proposition couldn’t have been further from my reality. I didn’t want my children to experience having to lose me the way I had my own parents, so I decided to follow my doctor’s advice and became vegan that day. For years, I had to figure my way around, trying this and that combination of food. Today, it’s incredible. The options for vegans are endless. There are grocery stores and restaurants exclusively dedicated to catering to this kind of lifestyle. It’s awesome to have witnessed so many people finally catching up to this way of life.
VN: What inspired you to write The Ageless Boomer?
RF: For years, friends and family would thank me for teaching them the healing power of eating whole, plant-based foods. As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered that I’m now the only person in my peer group not currently on medication and who hasn’t been sick in over three decades. I’m an anomaly but shouldn’t be, so a number of people suggested that I write a book to share my story and educate people about what I’ve learned. I spent five years compiling everything I know and have studied to encourage people to change their approach to eating and adopt a healthy, plant-based diet.
VN: Why do people over 60 have a reputation for being resistant to veganism?
RF: During the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, people started becoming vegetarian, and the general consensus was people who ate that way are (or must have been) hippies. Given that contextual history, it can be easy to understand why asking people my age to suddenly go vegan might seem strange and far too difficult. As I’ve said, when I went vegan (and skipped becoming a vegetarian), the diet was pretty much unheard of.
VN: What is “the ancient way of eating and exercising,” and why do you recommend it?
RF: The best diet for humans is the one that evolved with them—foods that look like they looked in nature before they were gathered—fruit, vegetables, seeds, and nuts in their raw states. The body doesn’t need processed anything. It doesn’t require oil, salt, or sugar. My book advocates a series of exercises called “tiger moves,” which are based on a practice developed in the early 1900s by a man named Charles Atlas. “Tiger moves” are exercises that incorporate the body’s own resistance. Though the fitness field has grown into a gigantic industry with every exercise machine available, every good trainer will say that resistance moves are still more beneficial than any other form of exercise.
VN: Do you have any recommendations for seniors residing in assisted-living facilities who want to go vegan?
RF: In some cases (but, of course, not all), people living in an assisted-living facility can make special dietary requests, so a senior who might be trying to integrate a vegan diet can certainly ask for diet options, which will enable them to slowly adjust. In addition, as veganism has become far more culturally popular, many chefs or cooks have learned to incorporate this way of cooking.
Maya Gottfried is the author of Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary and the forthcoming Vegan Love: Dating and Partnering for the Cruelty-Free Gal.
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