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From The Mayor: Could Bronxville Become a Blue Zone? PDF Print Email


By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville

Dec. 18, 2019:  As village government continues to proactively tackle and repair our underground infrastructure, we are also focusing on our above ground community qualities going beyond the traditional landscape and road surfaces to quality-of-life concerns.

In that vein, I think Bronxville truly has the possibility of being one of those “Blue Zones,” the locations around the world where people are most likely to live to be 100. By definition, Blue Zones are places that have the lowest rate of middle-age mortality and/or the highest concentration of centenarians. The common denominator is citizens are not being tempted to do the things that frankly make us sick in America. In essence, they live in an environment that sets them up for success.

As an example, they move around physically on average every 20 minutes; they have very few mechanized conveniences, and whenever they work or visit friends, they almost always walk. Reporters at National Geographic identified the first Blue Zone when they came across data that proved that people who lived in Okinawa had the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world.

Beyond Okinawa, in their first wave of research, they identified two more locations: Sardinia and a Seventh Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California. On the second wave of research, they also added the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica and the Greek Island of Icaria.

Icaria has the highest percentage of 90-year-olds on the planet as one out of three residents make it into their 90’s. They also have about 20% lower rates of cancer, 50% lower rates of heart disease than the world average, and almost no dementia.

In Okinawa, they don’t even have a word for retirement. They talk about Kigali, which means, “Why I wake up in the morning.” People there think of themselves as being useful and productive into their 90s and even 100s. In Costa Rica, the phrase is “plan de vida” or life plan.

All these communities universally revere the oldest members of their community, honoring their decades of wisdom and seek their advice.

In all locations, the food is quite different from the American diet. The main foods in every one of the Blue Zones are greens, grains, tubers, nuts, and beans, or as Americans used to call, a peasant diet.

There are actually nine lifestyle indices that are replicated in each of these Blue Zones:
-Moderate regular physical activity
-A defined life purpose
-Plant-based diet
-Moderate alcohol intake
-Spirituality or religious engagement
-Moderate caloric intake
-Stress reduction outlets
-Family engagement
-Social activity in an age-integrated community

Dan Buettner, bestselling author on Blue Zones and author of “Where People Live Longer and Better,” has attempted to introduce the Blue Zone approach to several US cities, including Fort Worth, Texas. In essence, the goal is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier with permanent changes to a community’s environment, policy, and social networks.

In Fort Worth, his group is credited with lowering the smoking rate by 31% since 2014. The city also improved its Gallup Poll well-being index score by almost 4 points. Their approach was not to convince 1 million people in the greater Fort Worth area to eat their veggies, start running and socialize more; rather, they did it by changing the environment they live in.

They looked at 30 indices that have defined Blue Zones and encouraged Fort Worth to adopt whatever they thought feasible. Some of the changes included adding many more sidewalks and widening existing ones, adding bike lanes, and creating strict non-smoking ordinances. In essence, it was a critical look at the infrastructure of their community and reshaping the built environment or human-made places where people commute, live, work, and play.

By partnering with schools, workplaces, and even grocery stores and restaurants, changes were made that supported well-being by creating new ways to engage in the community and just make healthy life choices easier. The environmental transformation led to increased foot traffic in their downtown business district, significantly bolstering the local economy.

With a community-wide effort, I believe Bronxville could be a model in Westchester for Blue Zone ideas. Some initiatives that immediately come to mind include:
-Assessment of our walking lanes to see what needs to be repaired, widened, and safely connected to continuous paths.
-Outlets for inter-generational activities on a regular basis. My dream has always been an age-inclusive Community Center.
-Volunteer opportunities for people in every age bandwidth and not just our “middle” years.

Just as our Gramatan Village started as a germ of an idea that developed into a national model, so, too, could the concept of Bronxville as a forward-thinking lifestyle incubator.

We just need to adopt the principle that if you can change the environment, you change behavior.


Editor's note: As a public service, MyhometownBronxville publishes articles from local institutions, officeholders, and individuals. MyhometownBronxville does not fact-check statements therein, and any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the thinking of its staff.


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Bronxville Overview

Bronxville Overview

Bronxville is a quaint village (one square mile) located just 16 miles north of midtown Manhattan (roughly 30 minutes on the train) and has a population of approximately 6,500. It is known as a premier community with an excellent public school (K-12) and easy access to Manhattan. Bronxville offers many amenities including an attractive business district, a hospital (Lawrence Hospital), public paddle and tennis courts, fine dining at local restaurants, two private country clubs and a community library.

While the earliest settlers of Bronxville date back to the first half of the 18th century, the history of the modern suburb of Bronxville began in 1890 when William Van Duzer Lawrence purchased a farm and commissioned the architect, William A. Bates, to design a planned community of houses for well-known artists and professionals that became a thriving art colony. This community, now called Lawrence Park, is listed on the National register of Historic Places and many of the homes still have artists’ studios. A neighborhood association within Lawrence Park called “The Hilltop Association” keeps this heritage alive with art shows and other events for neighbors.

Bronxville offers many charming neighborhoods as well as a variety of living options for residents including single family homes, town houses, cooperatives and condominiums. One of the chief benefits of living in “the village” is that your children can attend the Bronxville School.

The Bronxville postal zone (10708, known as “Bronxville PO”) includes the village of Bronxville as well as the Chester Heights section of Eastchester, parts of Tuckahoe and the Lawrence Park West, Cedar Knolls, Armour Villa and Longvale sections of Yonkers. Many of these areas have their own distinct character. For instance, the Armour Villa section has many historic homes and even has its own newsletter called “The Villa Voice” which reports on neighborhood news.

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