Blue Zones Project


Blue Zones Project
Umpqua Update


Who doesn’t want to live happier and healthier?

The Blue Zones Project-Umpqua — profiled in the autumn issue of UV — is promoting local paths to both of those life goals.

One in particular involves getting groups of people together to simply put one foot in front of the other. For many, walking is one of the easiest and healthiest activities, especially when done in a group. The Umpqua well-being effort takes it a step further with an ancient concept, made new.

Moai is a term that originated in Okinawa, one of five places where people enjoy inspiring longevity as documented by author Dan Buettner and demographer Michel Poulain.  Moai (pronounced mo-eye) is a word for a group of people coming together for a common purpose.

Originally, it was a way for villagers to maintain a system of financial support for one another.
Okinawans put children into small groups of five or six. They nurtured these young groups to foster lifelong friendships. In adulthood, Okinawans maintain strong social connections through regular Moai gatherings. Moais provide secure social networks. 

These safety nets lend financial and emotional support in times of need and give all of their members the stress-shedding security of knowing that there is always someone there for them. 

Today, in Blue Zones Project Demonstration Communities like Roseburg’s, the idea has expanded to represent an overall social support network and a vehicle for companionship surrounding healthy activities like plant-slant potlucks, or, in this case, walking together.
The idea is for a small group of people — five to eight is considered the optimal number — to commit to one another to walk together at a set time each week for 10 weeks. The concept goes beyond exercise, however, to encourage social networking and exploring local areas on foot. Walking together encourages conversation and other interactions aimed at creating a cohesive and supportive group.

In the research that led up to the development of the Blue Zones Project, Buettner discovered that active centenarians in Blue Zones areas move far more throughout their day than most U.S. residents. They don’t go to the gym or exercise; instead they move naturally as a part of daily life by walking, gardening and doing their manual work. 

Most important, Blue Zones-area centenarians make walking a habit; they walk every day as their primary means of transportation. 

Walking is free, easier on the joints than high-impact exercise, can be enjoyed in groups and, when done briskly, offers similar cardiovascular benefits to running. After a hard day, walking can relieve stress; after a meal, it can aid digestion. 

Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day, five or more days a week, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, arthritis and some cancers. 

Walking is one of the most health-giving natural movement activities available to us, and the benefits increase when we walk with friends. Walking Moais leverage movement-based activities to give a focus and framework to the process of developing healthy circles of friends. 

Research demonstrates that when people cluster with others who are healthy or ready to change their behavior, healthy behaviors increase, as does one’s ability to make lasting positive health changes.

To learn more, visit, like the Facebook Page: Blue Zones Project-Umpqua, and attend the community-wide kickoff to sign up to stay informed about Purpose, Potluck or Walking Moai activities launching in 2018.   



The Blue Zones Project–Umpqua recently announced the group of community leaders who will help guide project objectives as members of the Steering Committee and Leadership Team. 



Dick Baltus Equity Partner, AHM Brands; Editor, UV Magazine 

Merten Bangemann-Johnson CEO, NeighborWorks Umpqua 

Dr. Heidi Beery Umpqua Community Veg Education Group, and Evergreen Family Practice

KC Bolton, CEO Umpqua Community Health Center

Greg Brigham CEO, ADAPT

Vicky Brown Pastor, First Presbyterian Church

Lance Colley Roseburg City Manager 

Bob Dannenhoffer, M.D. Douglas County Health Network

Marissa Fink CEO, YMCA 

Robin Hill-Dunbar Program Officer, Ford Family Foundation 

Michael Lasher Superintendent, Douglas County School District 

Kathleen Nickel Communications Director, CHI Mercy Health

Wayne Patterson Executive Director, Umpqua Economic Development Partnership

Lisa Platt President, Mercy Foundation

Jeff Randall CEO, TMS  

Larry Rich Mayor, City of Roseburg  

Tim Smith General Manager, Roseburg News Review

Sharon Stanphill Health Director, Cow Creek Band, Umpqua Tribe of Indians

Mike Fieldman Executive Director, UCAN

Gerry Washburn Superintendent, Roseburg School District   

Kat Cooper Manager, Community Outreach & Communications, Umpqua Health



Built Environment Policy: Dick Dolgonas, retired city planner, Bike Walk Roseburg; Stuart Cowie, director, Roseburg Community Development. 

Faith Based Organizations: Brenda Tibbetts,  CURN facilitator, Head Start, CAC; John Schulz, board member, Roseburg SDA Church. 

Food Policy: Sarah Wickersham, program manager, UCAN; Sarah Runkel OSU Extension. 

Schools: Analicia Nicholson, director of learning, ESD; Trina McClure-Gwaltney, Healthy Kids Outreach Program, Mercy Foundation.  Restaurants/Grocery Stores: John Robinson, manager, Sherm’s; Sherrie Stinnett, owner, Pita Pit.

Tobacco Policy: David Price, director, Mission Integration, Mercy Medical; Jenn Scott, tobacco prevention coordinator, Adapt.

Worksites: Deb Catterson, director, Umpqua Business Center, Francesca Guyer, Douglas County HR Assistant, Wellness Coordinator
Individual Engagement: Don Kasparek, retired Director of Special Education for multi county unit. Committee for Confer.ence on Extraordinary Living