What Americans will learn from Albert Lea

Published 7:35 am Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This week, people across the country are tuning in like never before to your community of Albert Lea and the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project sponsored by the United Health Foundation.

Millions of viewers joined your Longevity Labor Day Picnic from Pioneer Park on “Good Morning America.” Now, millions more can visit the newly launched AARP.org/BlueZonesProject to see firsthand how one town in America — your very own community — has put into practice the art of living longer, better.

I urge you to visit the Web site and see for yourself! Many Albert Leans are profiled on this comprehensive Web site that takes Americans through a step-by-step lifestyle makeover. Much of what America will learn is straight from the experience of the participants in Albert Lea.

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During Week 1, we introduce the Blue Zones principles. A nice history of Albert Lea and photos of your community are featured front and center.

Week 2 is about creating your longevity circle; and it showcases the success of the 65 walking moai teams in Albert Lea.

The theme of Week 3 is “Rethinking How You Eat.” We will highlight food expert Brian Wansink’s advice to Albert Leans and talk about the changes you are making in the Albert Lea schools.

During Week 4 we remind America about the importance of mindless moving and show how Albert Lea built physical activity and movement into everyday life.

 Week 5 will focus on finding purpose — based on the principles learned in the Albert Lea purpose seminars held at Wedgewood Cove Golf Course.

And, finally, on Week 6, we showcase ways Albert Lea has become more walkable and bikable.

As America will see, you have been working incredibly hard since January to prove that by making a few simple changes, a community can add years and purpose to its residents’ lives.

AARP The Magazine collaborated with Dan Buettner, Joel Spoonheim and the Blue Zones team because we saw a unique opportunity to show Americans that they have a say in determining how many good years they will have in their lives. We know from hearing from AARP members across the country that people want tools to help extend good years of life.

From working with the Blue Zones, you now know that improving health is not just about what we eat and how much we move. Albert Lea residents have learned that it’s about who we spend time with, about having strong social networks and about an entire community working together.

We need to thank the United Health Foundation, an organization with the foresight to support meaningful projects like this that strengthen the health of a community. With their help and support, the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project has shown that individuals can take a novel and innovative approach to improving health through small, meaningful changes.

On behalf of AARP, Blue Zones and the United Health Foundation, I congratulate Albert Lea for your success thus far — and look forward to you changing America during the last six weeks of the Vitality Project.

Nancy Graham is the editor of AARP The Magazine, the world’s largest circulation magazine.