A.L. busy with Vitality Project

Published 9:57 am Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The local leadership team for the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project has been planning events to help members of the community achieve longer, healthier lives.

During a meeting last week to review many of the upcoming Vitality Project events, the group talked about the goal to get 5,000 people to sign up to be a part of the citywide project for Albert Lea.

The exact number of people who have already signed up has not been announced.

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Albert Lea Community Development Assistant Wendy Flugum said each ambassador has as its goal to get 50 people to sign the paper pledge of their involvement and to take the online Vitality Compass once now and a second time in October.

Leadership team co-chairman Chris Chalmers compared the project to a marathon. He said the kickoff for the project on May 14 was like the starting line. And just as with running, the first part is easy, but then it gets more difficult. By sticking with it, this project will set Albert Lea apart from every other community, he said.

Flugum said City Manager Victoria Simonsen reminded the ambassadors that Albert Lea is the pilot city for the whole country. People across the nation can learn from Albert Leans how to change health and health care.

“AARP and Blue Zones believe that Albert Lea has the potential to show America that we are implementing a grassroots model of how to change health and live longer, better,” Simonsen said.

The project is a “gift of a lifetime,” and it is everyone’s responsibility to share it with those people they care about.

People who haven’t signed the pledge or taken the Vitality Compass can meet with Flugum or Bob Graham in the Community Development Office in City Hall to get their pledge packets.

People can also buy Blue Zones T-shirts for $5 at the office or at the Albert Lea Family Y.

“We want the whole community to participate,” Flugum said. “We want everybody to have two more years to spend with the people they love and care about.”

The following are some of the upcoming Vitality Project events and updates:

In June there will be three free purpose workshops open to the public at Wedgewood Cove. The first will be today at 5:30 p.m. The second will be June 17 at 9 a.m., and the third will be June 17 at 2 p.m.

People can register through Albert Lea Community Education by calling (507) 379-4834 or by stopping in the Community Development Office.

June 18 will be the kickoff for the walking moai groups. People who are participating in the groups are asked to go to the school nearest them at 6:30 p.m. to learn more. The four locations for the meetings are Albert Lea High School, Southwest Middle School, Brookside Education Center and Halverson Elementary School.

Participants will learn how to walk their way to better health and get to know the social benefits of walking with neighbors.

On June 25 at 6:30 p.m. at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center will be an “Ask the Expert” session with University of Minnesota Professor Leslie Lytle.

Lytle will answer questions related to the home environment checklist, which is part of the Vitality Project pledge packet.

In July there will be a series of neighborhood park parties held throughout the community. If people are interested in participating or hosting a park party they can contact Alice Englin at (507) 377-5504.

One of the Blue Zone’s lessons for longevity is to have social connections.

Several classes tied in with the Vitality Project are being offered through Community Ed, including cooking and gardening classes.

For more information call (507) 379-4834.

There will be gardening contests, for both flowers and vegetables. More information is to come.

People interested in volunteering can visit the United Way of Freeborn County’s Web site to view volunteer opportunities available.

Flugum said right now there are 35 volunteer agencies signed up that offer opportunities.

Hy-Vee and Nelson’s Market Place have both posted tags next to longevity foods in their stores to help people make healthier food choices.