Scottsdale is going blue. That’s thanks to a new community-led well-being initiative called the Blue Zones Project. From restaurants and grocery stores to schools and workplaces, the Blue Zones Project aims to make positive change by transforming the environments where people live, work and play. Since 2009, the Blue Zones Project initiative has been applied to more than 75 communities across the country in an effort to increase happiness, vitality, and longevity. And now, the Blue Zones Project is underway in Scottsdale. Here’s what you need to know about the new initiative.
What Are the Blue Zones?
The Blue Zones are the subject of a new Netflix series, but the origins and impact of the Blue Zones Project predates its big debut on the worldwide streaming service.
The Blue Zones Project initiative is based on decades of research by National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner who has identified five cultures across the globe, called the Blue Zones, with high concentrations of people who live to age 100 or older. These longevity hotspots include our neighbors to the west in Loma Linda, California as well as Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; and Ikaria, Greece.
So, what makes these cultures so special? Researchers have found a number of common denominators, called the Power 9, across these populations, including a deep sense of community and connection to loved ones, a strong sense of purpose, plant-based diets and moderate alcohol consumption, and lifestyles that are naturally active, to name a few.
By looking at what researchers have learned from these regions, the Blue Zones Project aims to generate positive changes to people, places, and policies with an end goal that ultimately results in a higher quality of life here in Scottsdale. But they can’t do it alone. Individuals and organizations throughout Scottsdale play an equally important role when it comes to inspiring positive, community-wide change, too.
Blue Zones and Happiness, Vitality and Longevity
Research has shown that where we live has a larger impact on our health than our own genetics. The Blue Zones Project has set a framework for communities across the country to make positive, lasting change by focusing on the Life Radius or the areas where we spend 90 percent of our lives such as our workplaces, our parks, our schools, and our homes.
Overall, Blue Zones Project communities have experienced double-digital drops in obesity and tobacco use, and as a result have saved millions in healthcare-related costs since adopting the principles of the initiative.
Albert Lea, Minnesota, the testing ground for the first Blue Zones Project in the country, saw 2.9 years added to lifespans within one year after adopting the initiative’s principles. In Fort Worth Texas, the city’s well-being score went from one of the unhealthiest cities in America to one of the healthiest, moving from 185th to 31st in just five years. And in Beach Cities, California, the community saved $72 million in lost productivity and medical costs after implementing Blue Zones Project strategies.
And now, those same strategies are coming to Scottsdale.
What’s Next for the Scottsdale Blue Zones Project?
The Scottsdale Blue Zones Project was launched in March 2023 through a collaborative partnership with Blue Zones, HonorHealth, Cigna Healthcare, and Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona.
In a recent community focus group session, Executive Director of the Scottsdale Blue Zones Project Sarah Kearney said, “We are fortunate that we’ve got a great template, we’ve got great models to create our blueprint and our action plan and our strategies moving forward as we really go into transformation and activation, which will kick into the community in January of 2024.”
As of August 2023, the Scottsdale Blue Zones Project is currently in its discovery and planning phase. “We’re excited to do this work ahead together hand-in-hand with the community at large,” said Kearney. Learn more about the Scottsdale Blue Zones Project here.