Environment: Making it better wherever you are
Live Healthy. Live Happy. Live Longer.
Today is the birthday of a former neighbor of mine. Ada is turning 111 years old! What is her secret to longevity? I don’t think she’d say there’s any sort of secret, but I know in her case, it must have something to do with flowers.
Ada was the town florist for a good sixty years before she retired to live with her friends at The Elms, the quaint and comfortable little “old folks” home. Ada made everyone’s life more beautiful in my Ohio hometown. The flowers that scented our lives with the sweetness of Ada’s character could be one of the reasons why she has lived so long. There are other factors, I’m sure, that have contributed, like strong social connections and the slower pace of living that a small town promotes.
Whatever the reasons, Ada created a life within an environment where she continues to thrive. You could say that she lives in her own Blue Zones Project. What’s that? In case you haven’t heard of the Blue Zone, here is some background:
The Blue Zones Project was born out of National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner’s eight-year examination of communities across the globe where people were happily living the longest. A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists uncovered nine common characteristics that help identify a path for up to 12 extra years of life, regardless of geographic location. These shared lifestyle behaviors are known as the Power 9® and focus on helping people move naturally, eat wisely, connect with others, discover purpose, and change their environments.
Buettner founded Blue Zones, LLC to bring these secrets of longevity to the United States, partnering with Healthways in 2009 to help communities accelerate transformation through a comprehensive set of solutions designed to improve overall well-being. These solutions have measurably lowered healthcare costs, increased productivity, and improved the quality of life for residents in those communities.
The Blue Zones Project is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to change the way people experience the world around them. By impacting environment, policy, and social networks, Blue Zones Project makes healthy choices easier. As a result, people can live longer, better, and communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and boost national recognition as a great place to live, work, and play.
A Blue Zones Community® is an area in which citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores, and community leaders have come together to optimize residents’ longevity and well-being. Blue Zones Project® by Healthways takes a systematic, environmental approach to identifying and creating policies and programs that support community transformation.
Blue Zones Project optimizes four key environments to make healthy choices the easy choices:
Inner Self: By helping people discover their purpose in life, it’s possible to improve their well-being. In Blue Zones® cultures, purpose is so important that there are often special words for it. In Costa Rica, for example, they call it “Plan De Vida” – a plan for life.
Habitat: If we de-convenience places where people spend most of their time, such as home, work, and school, we can encourage healthier activity. For example, Okinawans stand-up and sit-down from the floor numerous times a day instead of using chairs. That constant, moderate exercise rewards them with years of healthy life.
Social Networks: Our social connections influence the decisions we make, and people in Blue Zones cultures regularly socialize face-to-face with friends whose healthy behaviors reinforce their own.
Community: Environmental surroundings encourage healthy behaviors—from restaurant and grocery store choices to sidewalk and bike path access that encourages safe physical activity for people of all ages and abilities.
“So many news stories take a cynical approach to the state of health and well-being in the United States. However, our work on the ground in Blue Zones Project communities has shown us that Americans embrace the concept of well-being improvement and get involved in making it happen when they have the type of resources that allow them to tap into a collective will,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner. “American communities and their citizens are passionate about changing things for themselves and for their children’s future. We’re just lighting the lamps so individuals, businesses and local governments can see the path to long-term, meaningful improvement.”
To get more on the story, and learn tips on improving your well-being, check out the Blue Zone.