Sibley competing for Blue Zones statusSIBLEY, Iowa — Kathleen Osterman and her team members ended their year by compiling a 32-page Blue Zones application that placed Sibley among 58 other Iowa communities in the running for 10 Blue Zones Community demonstration sites.
SIBLEY, Iowa — Kathleen Osterman and her team members ended their year by compiling a 32-page Blue Zones application that placed Sibley among 58 other Iowa communities in the running for 10 Blue Zones Community demonstration sites.
A Blue Zones community will develop and utilize programs to foster a healthier lifestyle for residents based on characteristics identified in locations — or Blue Zones — around the world where people lived better and longer. Research initiated by author Dan Buettner and National Geographic found that Blue Zones’ residents reached the 100-year age mark at rates 10 times more than people in the U.S. did.
After Gov. Terry Branstad’s announcement last year to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016, 85 communities submitted statements of interest for the Blue Zones Project. Fifty-nine of those communities were shortlisted to submit formal applications.
“We listened to Dan Buettner at the informational meeting in Storm Lake and we walked away (feeling) really energized about the project of living healthier and longer,” Osterman said about what sparked interest among city representatives.
Osterman, a recently retired nurse from the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District, said she was approached by Osceola Community Hospital representatives, Janet Dykstra and Julie Schroder, to take the lead as the Sibley Blue Zones Project Manager.
“I was always more involved in the wellness and prevention side of the nursing program in school,” Osterman added.
She detailed several health initiatives that are currently in the planning phase.
In effort to optimize the community environment, a recreational trail in Sibley will eventually be linked to the trail in Dickinson County.
City Administrator Dan Janssen explained that the trail will circumvent city limits with the intent for the southern portion of it to be connected to the Dickinson County trail system.
“We’re considering it to be a non-motorized trail,” he added.
Additionally, the Sibley Recreation Department is in the process of initiating moai groups — which are informal social groups that meet on a regular basis.
“In the Blue Zones communities, moai groups meet for social connectedness,” Osterman said. “It is the mental health piece that keeps people motivated to take care of themselves.”
There are two wellness centers currently located in the city — one at the Osceola Community Hospital and the other is at the Sibley-Ocheyedan High School.
“Our community wellness center at the hospital serves all generations and offers different exercise and nutrition programs,” Osterman said, adding that life coaches assist individuals in setting personal goals.
The school-based fitness center is available to students and staff members at no cost.
To promote a safer walking environment for school-aged children, the city recently reduced the speed limit near schools.
“Even if we don’t get it (Blue Zones status), we’re still going to go forward with our Blue Zones initiatives,” Osterman said.
“We will go ahead because we will receive resources. When we talk about resources we’re not talking about money. It’s the people with expertise who will be able to help us.”
Success of a city’s Blue Zones application is largely dependent on community support.
One way to measure support is by means of a scoreboard on the Blue Zones website. The scoreboard tabulates the percentage of residents — in comparison to each city’s population — who have pledged to show support to their city.
Although formal applications have been submitted, Osterman stressed that residents can still vote for their community on the website. The 10 Blue Zones Communities will be determined in May.
Readers may reach Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony at 376-7321.