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The secret to living longer and better

The secret to living longer and better can be found in the simple things we all do every day, like the foods we eat, the company we keep, how we move and our overall outlook on life.

A new, community-led well-being initiative is helping people right here in the Umpqua Valley work together to turn the settings where we spend most of our time into places where we can easily walk and bike outdoors, find more healthy food options, live a more purposeful life, and build more connections with one another. Blue Zones Project is designed to unite communities behind a common goal: transforming environments so there are more ways to make healthy choices easier.

Blue Zones Project best practices are Inspired by the five areas in the world considered to be longevity hot spots, or Blue Zones, where people live to the age of 100 about 10 times more than we do here, with a fraction of the chronic illness.

After a competitive application process, the Umpqua region joined forty-two other communities across the country as one of the newest Blue Zones Project Demonstration Communities. Local leadership came together to spearhead the application process to demonstrate a need and readiness for improvement in our wellbeing. As the Umpqua Valley has a long track record of individuals and organizations working to create opportunities for community members to live healthy, happy, and productive lives, Blue Zones Project’s approach is to amplify this kind of work by helping to build connections, bring more person-power to wellness-related issues, and provide expertise and programmatic resources to the area.

Umpqua is now one of four participating Demonstration Communities in Oregon. Led by local staff, community leaders, and residents, the three-year initiative is informed by the unique strengths and opportunities of each community. The Steering Committee and Leadership Team serve as advisors, champions and change-makers through the implementation period, meeting with staff regularly to guide the project from start to finish. Additionally, sector committees collaborate on each area that Blue Zones Project focuses on, including the 3 policy areas of built environment, food, and tobacco/smoking, worksites, schools, restaurants and grocery stores, faith-based organizations, and engagement.

In recognition that you can’t put a changed person back into an unchanged environment, the three-year initiative of Blue Zones Project draws upon more than 200 evidence-based interventions to make it easier for residents to move more, eat wisely, connect socially, and have a positive outlook on life. By helping people and organizations transform these settings, Blue Zones Project aims to make the healthy choice the easy choice, so that people naturally adopt healthier behaviors as a community. Community organizations are already implementing these best practices, nudges and defaults to guide employees and patrons toward healthier behaviors and options. Efforts across this comprehensive scope will help communities make the overall environment, or a person’s life radius, one that encourages and supports healthy behaviors.

As community-wide participation is critical to the success of this effort, all are invited to get involved! A great way for residents in the region to learn more about the community-wide well-being initaitive is to visit the Facebook and Instagram pages, “Blue Zones Project-Umpqua”, where people can learn about upcoming events and free resources. Community members are also encouraged to get on the email list by sending a request to [email protected]. With several encouraging milestones already in the community, Blue Zones Project is moving at full speed, working within the various sectors to transform settings, and inspire a culture of health within the community. Be part of making the Umpqua Valley an even better place to live, work, learn, pray and play!