Retire in Vegan Style

Although it’s easy to find financial advice about retiring, there isn’t a whole lot of information about how to enjoy your “golden years” in a vegan-friendly city or retirement community. Certainly, there’s more to retirement than Social Security, stocks and bonds, and annuities. Most compassionate people hope to retire to an area that offers enjoyable activities, pleasant temperatures, opportunities to interact with like-minded people, and plenty of vegan options.

I have yet to come across an official list of “the 10 best states for vegan retirees,” but I do have some info on vegan-friendly cities, some of which may be good retirement spots.

In 2019, PETA ranked the most vegan-friendly big cities in the U.S., and San Francisco came out on top. Dallas; Detroit; Los Angeles; Nashville, Tennessee; New York; Orlando, Florida; Portland, Oregon; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Washington, also made the list. Not everyone will think of all these cities as “retirement towns” or “affordable,” depending in part on their lifestyle and the balances in their savings and retirement accounts. But the list might give you a useful starting point.

In September 2023, WalletHub released a report comparing the 100 largest U.S. cities to find the “best and cheapest places” for “vegan- and vegetarian-friendliness.” It examined cities based on various factors, including the cost of groceries and the number of restaurants that serve meat-free meals. Some of the top picks also appear on PETA’s list. WalletHub ranked Portland, Los Angeles, and Orlando as the top three, while San Diego; Phoenix; San Francisco; Seattle; Miami; Austin, Texas; and Oakland, California rounded out the top 10.

Many people prefer smaller areas, so PETA released a list of the Top 10 Vegan-Friendly Towns and Small Cities, too. Asheville, North Carolina, topped our list, followed by Dayton, Ohio; Frederick, Maryland; Tacoma, Washington; Boise, Idaho; San Marcos, Texas; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Bend, Oregon; and Bisbee, Arizona.

Of course, these lists are just a starting point. Other factors, including cost of living, climate, recreational activities, cultural opportunities, and proximity to loved ones, also often play an important role when people choose a retirement place. What might be considered one of the best places to retire for one person might be one of the worst for someone else.

I “retired” to Sarasota, Florida, well in advance of my actual retirement. The warm climate was certainly a deciding factor for me, and I’m pleased that it’s a very vegan-friendly area. In 2019, even named Sarasota the nation’s best city for vegans.

So if you’re nearing retirement age—or just looking for a change of scenery—I suggest carefully researching the vegan-friendly stores and restaurants in the areas where you might want to settle (along with the financial impact of such a change, of course). HappyCow is an especially helpful resource for that. Most cities have a local vegan or vegetarian group that may be able to provide helpful information, too.

If you’re interested in retirement centers or assisted living facilities, be sure to contact those places about the vegan options they offer. And, obviously, if you have animal companions, you’ll want to choose someplace that’ll welcome them. The Vegetarian Resource Group has a list of “Vegetarian and Vegan Options in Senior Independent Living, Assisted Living, Nursing Home, and Other Senior Facilities” that may come in handy. Choices can change with time, so it’s best to confirm the options before making up your mind to move someplace.

The number of vegans in the U.S. increased by 300% (about 9.6 million people) between 2004 and 2019, and new vegans are still sprouting up every day. Because of this increase, more and more food companies have been introducing new vegan foods and “veganizing” previously nonvegan options.

No one else can decide exactly where you should retire. It’s a tough decision that involves many considerations, but hopefully this information will give you some ideas. Please share any thoughts or feedback you may have in the comment section below.