City to explore participating in program that aims to aid all residents in reaching 100

The ‘Blue Zone’ designation is earned after cities put systems in place to make sure residents, businesses, and government are making the maximum effort to create healthier and more productive citizens.
There’s no shortage of activities for older residents of Palm Springs, including those found at The Mizell Center. (Photo by Brelinda)

Palm Springs could have a case of the blues in the future, and it would be welcome news for some.

The news: City leaders approved spending $85,000 last week for a study to determine what steps would be required for Palm Springs to become a certified Blue Zone Community.

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  • The designation is bestowed by an organization whose founder set out to find the keys to living to 100. It is earned after cities put systems in place to assure residents, businesses, and government are making the maximum effort to create healthier and more productive citizens.

  • In Southern California, the cities that make up LA’s South Bay — Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach – earned the Blue Zone Community designation more than a decade ago. Loma Linda was one of the original places initially considered a Blue Zone by researchers.

Looking back: The idea of seeking certification in Palm Springs has been in motion for several years. Former Sustainability Commission Chair Joe Jackson said he first proposed the idea due to the city’s history of promoting itself as a healthy destination.

  • “The village of Palm Springs, in its earliest days, was a place where people came to be healthy in our dry desert climate,” he told the City Council before it considered committing funds to the study last week. “We can take another logical step in this century.”

  • Last year, Councilmember Geoff Kors invited community leaders to listen to an initial presentation. That eventually led to the Oct. 27 vote.

At issue: Approving funds for the study was not unanimous. In casting the lone no vote in a 4-1 decision, Councilmember Dennis Woods cited concerns over the actual need for the certification in a city that already has a populace devoted to aging well.

  • “I’m skeptical,” Woods said during deliberation. “We have a healthcare district, lots of running groups, walking groups, an active senior center, and many gyms. I’m just not clear what this would bring us.”

Details: What it would bring, said Dan Buettner, Jr., a Blue Zones vice president, is community-wide recognition and efforts that have been proven to lower the risks to longevity from the earliest age.

  • “In the beach cities, childhood obesities dropped 50%,” Buettner said. “The medical costs associated with that is massive. There ends up being less diabetes through the lifespan, and also helps remove the chance of new diseases. That’s a $20 billion value over the lifetime of those kids.”

Next steps: Funds approved by the Council will result only in a study to determine whether the city should aim for the certification. If it does, a Blue Zones representative said his organization would work with local businesses to raise 100% of the money needed to undertake what could be a four-year effort.

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