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Last January when Albert Lea was chosen for the pilot project of the AARP / Blue Zones Vitality Project sponsored by United Health Foundations, I never could have imagined how this was going to help not only my family, but our entire community. We have been blessed with knowledge that not only will allow us to live longer, but more importantly to live better!
Our community has added more sidewalks this year then what is normally done in three years! What does this mean? Well for starters, I can fully walk around our centerpiece lake knowing that my family and I are safe. I know that the community has gained an asset that will be here forever, and is free to use to anybody that wishes. I also know that I am going to see friends, family and strangers along this path that I am going to be more connected with.
Our restaurants are also coming on board with offering smaller, more reasonable portions, and healthier options. We are not going to stop eating out, but given the option when we do, we can make better decisions. Now we have to get the national chains on board with this program so that no matter where you go, you will have the choice to eat a healthier, well proportioned meal.
Our community has always been “Minnesota Nice”, but with this program, people have reconnected in a way that hasn’t been seen since “Leave it to Beaver”. It is absolutely amazing how a person can live within the same neighborhood, and yet not know anybody, let alone not be able to ask for help when needed. This program brought this community together in way that won’t soon be forgotten. I encourage you to go out and meet someone new in your neighborhood each week for the next year. You will be amazed what you will learn if you just take the initiative to go up to your neighbors door and introduce yourself!
Purpose is a very strong word that is often overused in our society, but finding your own purpose is probably one of the best gifts you can give yourself. My wife and I both attended the purpose workshop and left realizing that we needed to break out of our rut and pursue our passion, for us, that meant going back to college to finish our degrees. For others it meant finding a hobby that they had forgotten about. Life is a lot brighter when you wake up in the morning knowing that you are going to make a difference in your own life. You don’t have to take a purpose workshop to discover what invigorates you and makes you want to get up in the morning. Get a book, attend a class, ask yourself questions, whatever it is just do it, you will be happy that you did.
How does one measure success in a program like this? Is it just the empirical evidence that is gained? I think not! Living in Albert Lea is better today then what it was just a year ago in so many ways that are not measurable. I feel that our community is taking responsibility for what matters in life, what matters in our community, and what matters in our world. True reform of any kind starts with making small behavioral changes, and that is what we have done, and that is what I ask you to do as well. Give this program a try in your own family unit, ask your community leaders to adapt this policy, and gain not only more years of life, but more importantly better years of life.
Thank you to the AARP for seeing the value in this program, and more importantly the value of Albert Lea. Thank you to the Blue Zones and all of the experts that have been brought to Albert Lea during the last year. Thank you to the United Health Foundation for sponsoring this project financially. And thank you Albert Lea for having the foresight to pursue this opportunity and to get the community involved. The success of this program is not only based on the empirical data, but on what this community has become it just the last year. When will we truly determine the success of this project is yet to be seen, for I will change, my children will adapt, and our future shall prosper!