Tina Trenkner is the Deputy Editor for GOVERNING.com. She edits the Technology and Health newsletters.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Working with AARP, one Minnesota town is making changes aimed at adding years to the lives of its residents.
There are a few places that are recognized as "blue zones" for having a large number of centenarians -- among them Okinawa, Sardinia, and Loma Linda, California. One town in Minnesota is trying to increase its population's longevity by implementing common habits those areas share. Albert Lea is the first to take on those habits in a community-wide effort via the AARP/Blue Zone Vitality Project, which encourages residents to develop healthier habits in order to add years to their lives. The program's organizers wanted to work with a community with average health statistics and a population of 10,000 to 20,000. Employees from a variety of city-government departments made up the leadership team, which has met with the program manager every two weeks to guide them through changes such as adding more walking and biking lanes. Adults have led children on "walking school buses" to get to school. Employers, churches, and other places that provide food have made efforts to provide healthier, affordable meals. In order to see how much improvement Alberta Leans have made, they were asked to take an online assessment of 35 questions that measure longevity. Since the program commenced, participating individuals have added an average 3.1 years to their lives. Since then, AARP has reached out to its affiliates to implement some of the changes Albert Lea made in other communities. For tips on how to make healthier changes in your neighborhood, check out AARP's coverage here.