Following what Blue Zones Wilton called an “enthusiastic response” to Tony Buettner’s Oct. 23 presentation to the community, the committee wrapped up 2018 with a snapshot of the path forward.

In an email sent to community influencers, the Blue Zones Wilton team, made up of citizen volunteers, confirmed their quest to certify Wilton as a Blue Zones healthy community. And, in response to the most pressing questions raised on Oct. 23, shared the following insights:

  1. Who would pay? Not Wilton taxpayers. The team is setting high-level meetings with potential private funders such as boards of hospital systems and foundations, healthcare companies, and health insurance companies, as those companies have been the typical partners for other Blue Zone communities.
  2. What would Wilton get? Wilton would receive the Blue Zone expert assessment and plan for improving healthy living and well-being. The town would also have access to experts in grant writing, policy, media, and marketing as well as one of the nation’s top urban planning experts. This kind of access would offer critical data to help inform on the next master planning process. In addition, Blue Zones Wilton would have a headquarters in town with full-time professionals charged with executing the plan to achieve measurable results, including global recognition as a community committed to improving the quality of life, real estate values and desirability.
  3. Why can’t Wilton do this on its own? We simply don’t have the experience, expertise, data, manpower, or funding for such a huge effort. Other Blue Zones communities say the project and brand name moved the needle in ways they never could have imagined or accomplished on their own. Blue Zones Project™ would provide the strategic oversight and marketing infrastructure to support current programs, promote new initiatives, and drive results using their time-tested, proven results. Blue Zones Wilton will remain committed to collaborating with Wilton’s existing community initiatives.

GOOD Morning Wilton spoke with Blue Zones Wilton committee member Julie Carney, a realtor with William Raveis Real Estate, who reinforced how becoming a Blue Zone can drive meaningful change.

“Becoming a healthier, happier town is a not only a huge benefit for residents, but also a marker for prospective buyers and business owners. Receiving the official Blue Zones designation would serve as a unique differentiator for Wilton in a competitive tri-state market; other Blue Zones communities have seen nice bumps in their real estate values.”

This could pay dividends when it comes to Wilton’s housing market, say advocates. Millennials for example, are the largest generation to date. According to the 2017 NAR (National Association of Realtors) Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, they were the largest group of home buyers (34%) for the fourth consecutive year. It’s a population whose cares about towns–including Wilton–shouldn’t ignore.

“Becoming a Blue Zone is like winning an award, which is directly in line with millennials’ approach to making decisions for the future,” Carney explains. “This group is smart; they already know so much when they come to a town and look for a house. They do a lot of research and evaluation. Award-winning means somebody else has already done the work, classified it as an A+, and they trust that.”

Millennials are also about experiences and having a lifestyle that’s rewarding. Carney believes the tenets of the Blue Zone–making it easy for people to connect, offering healthy, easy options for eating and exercise, and working towards a well-balanced, less stressed-out life for everyone in town–would resonate with millennials.

The emphasis on connections seems to have already struck a chord amongst Wiltonians.

Approximately 50 people of all ages braved frigid temperatures on Sunday, Jan. 13 to learn more about the proposed Blue Zones Project for Wilton, and to hike the Norwalk River Valley Trail (NRVT).

This was the first Walk and Talk ‘Moai’ Blue Zones Wilton hosted. The word moai comes from Blue Zone Okinawa, Japan and means ‘meeting for a common purpose.’ In addition to community building, the Walk and Talk also tapped into the Blue Zone core principle of movement.

Beverly Brokaw, the resident spearheading Wilton’s pursuit of Blue Zone status, addressed the group before the start of the hike, outlining the health and well-being benefits the Blue Zone Project can bring to the town.

“Sunday’s good turnout in the cold weather is a good indication of the strong interest the Blue Zone concept is receiving in Wilton. Our team is excited about the building enthusiasm in town,” she said at the time.

Attendees commented that these kinds of activities should take place more often in Wilton, providing opportunities to meet other members of the community, benefit from the town’s amenities, and participate in a shared pursuit.

Charlie Taney, NRVT’s executive director, is also on board. “The NRVT is 100% behind making Wilton a Blue Zone and happy to do whatever we can to help make it a reality. It’s a perfect fit with the NRVT.”

Moving forward, Blue Zones Wilton will look to schedule more events to explore Blue Zone principles and to share information with the community on exactly how Blue Zones work.

“Becoming a Blue Zone would complement all the other great programs, volunteer organizations, and initiatives that are already in place in Wilton,” says Carney. “We look at it as all these great spokes to the wheel of Wilton. Blue Zones brings experience with other communities to help coordinate and get things done faster.”

Will Wilton become the first Blue Zone in New England as well as the first town that is New York City-commutable? More information about the Blue Zones project can be found online. To stay on top of Wilton-specific Blue Zone efforts, visit the Facebook page.