Serena Coles was an early Vice President of The Vegan Society. A passionate animal rights activist, Serena became vegetarian during World War 2 at a time of incredible hardship and food scarcity throughout Europe. She became vegan shortly afterwards, when few people knew what the term meant.
In the 1980s Serena’s position in The Vegan Society allowed her to travel the world promoting the lifestyle. Tragically, however, Serena went on to develop dementia and in care was mistakenly fed meat and dairy.
In 2004, old friend Kirsten Junsberg tracked Serena down and was horrified to see her being fed meat and dairy at mealtimes. However, when Serena saw Kirsten's 'vegan' badge it triggered her memory. "Vegan" she said, "I'm vegan!". Kirsten and fellow activist Tracey Mills would visit Serena as often as they could to bring her vegan meals.
After a long battle, Kirsten and Tracey ensured Serena's dietary wishes were acknowledged. By the time of Serena death at the age of 95, her veganism was being supported by the care home. Her communication had markedly improved towards the end of her life, no doubt due to the friendship and familiar food she had been offered.
"Her legacy survives in anyone who lives a vegan lifestyle and who, in turn, wants others to share the joy that veganism brings" Tracey Mills.
"Everywhere was Serena giving talks and demonstrations. Veganism was her whole life. Without people like her, veganism wouldn't be the international movement that it is" Kirsten Junsberg.
Serena Coles' story inspired the creation of V for Life, a unique charity with a mission to improve the quality of care for older vegans and vegetarians.
If you're concerned about protecting your vegan or vegetarian identity and beliefs later in life, V for Life has resources that can help. Our self-advocacy pack outlines the laws that safeguard dignity and choices in care, and details the steps you can take to ensure that you are cared for in line with your beliefs. We have guides designed especially for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so no matter where you are, we have the right advice for you. You can also check out the later-life planning pages of our website.