by Chris Regan, Healthcare Administrator, Carmel Valley Manor
At Carmel Valley Manor, a 28-acre Life Care community in Carmel, Calif., we consistently look for opportunities to excel and highlight our community – including those who serve us so faithfully. Confident that staff are the foundation of our excellence, we intentionally seek ways to support their wellbeing and engagement. When we learned about the Blue Zones Project, we determined immediately that this project was in direct alignment with our philosophy.
Many of us spend a majority of our time at work. We knew that creating an empowering, healthy, and supportive work environment would be key to inspiring wellness for our employees, their families and translate back to richer employee engagement and longevity.
The basic premise of the Blue Zones Project is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The project is a partnership between National Geographic fellow, author and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner and the organization Sharecare as they work to replicate the environmental elements that support longevity. Buettner spent 20 years researching areas in the world with the highest rate of centenarians dubbed these areas the “Blue Zones” – places in the world where people live longer and with lower cases of chronic disease – with the findings published in National Geographic. The principles of the “Power 9” represents nine elements consistently found throughout communities in the five original Blue Zones – to move naturally, live with a purpose, make time to downshift, consume until you are 80 percent full, choose a more “plant-slanted” diet, gather with good friends, belong to a faith-based community, invest time in family and surround yourself with people who support positive behaviors.
We knew becoming a Blue Zones Project approved worksite checked all of our boxes!
Carmel Valley Manor assembled a committee of staff from the various departments. These individuals were committed to creating a healthier workplace for themselves and their peers. They were given the time to attend bi-monthly meetings. Their ongoing input of ideas, enthusiasm and energy was palpable. The process of becoming a Blue Zones Project worksite was an incredible achievement as we became the second approved worksite in Monterey County.
Some of our key accomplishments include:
- Installing Blue Zones Parking spaces to promote extra steps to key destinations.
- Giving employees pedometers to encourage walking more.
- Establishing monthly “Lunch and Learns” with our dietician and health expert (in coordination with our dining services department), to offer staff the opportunity to learn about wellness while offering a nutritious meal and recipes to take home to their families.
- Creating a “Manor of Well-being” brand and Facebook page where staff can access campus happenings and wellness opportunities in Monterey County.
- Adding more “plant-slanted” items to our staff lunches.
- Holding a successful farmers’ market with plans for more. We anticipate sharing CSA opportunities to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables – including menu ideas.
- Establishing a defined walking path throughout the campus with benches for use and rest spots that have illustrated exercises at each station.
- Opening our campus Fitness Center to staff every afternoon so they can work out before or after their shift.
Walking the perimeter of our campus during their breaks is encouraged. We even have periodical campus staff trash pick-up. We gather and walk the perimeter together with gloves and bags, which promotes connection and care of the campus, as well as an opportunity to laugh together.
For the holidays, we provided the time to create holiday wreaths with our garden expert that staff could bring home to their families. This Spring we will have a bulb planting session. We have an employee garden where staff are encouraged to pick fruit and enjoy in season. Currently our Garden expert is working on identifying plants along the walking paths to enhance awareness and educate on the flora and fauna of the area.
We are committed to the sustainability of staff wellness. We wanted to get it right with them first – knowing that educated, supported staff will translate to positive encounters with others. Our next step is rolling these precepts out to our residents. We are excited to already hear a buzz of enthusiasm as residents have commented on the differences they are witnessing.
I am grateful to have participated in such a worthy project. The Blue Zones staff have been invaluable towards our success and sustainability – truly this has been a community effort! If you are interested in learning more about Blue Zones or your community becoming a Blue Zones Project approved worksite, visit bluezonesproject.com.