Tablet Local

Mayor talks sidewalks, bicycling at healthy-living conference

Mayor Betsy Price rolled into a healthy-living conference in downtown Fort Worth on Wednesday morning riding a bicycle and wearing pink high heels and a bright yellow helmet.

“I can run circles around most people and it is only because I stay active and stay engaged, and I think that is what you have to do,” said Price, 64, to the cheering crowd of 200-plus at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel.

Masterpiece Living, a group committed to helping older adults age in a better way, held its annual conference in Fort Worth this year, largely because the city is committed to offering healthy lifestyle choices, said Dr. Roger Landry, the organization’s president.

“We had heard so much about the mayor and her initiative to make this a healthier city,” Landry said, asking Price to speak about Fort Worth’s recent designation as a Blue Zones community.

Blue Zones, headed by bestselling author Dan Buettner and aided by Healthways, a Tennessee consulting company, works to make healthy choices easy for residents. Fort Worth is one of 20 cities nationwide — and the only Southern city — to participate in the effort.

Price said: “It is expensive to do, but it will engage all citizens. It will take potentially 2,000 volunteers and a staff of about 20. Our major corporations are so excited about it they have agreed to fund it all.”

She said she is passionate about building a healthy Fort Worth because it will help attract businesses.

“Selfishly, it is economic development for the city. Behind payroll, what is the next-largest expense for any business? Healthcare. And with healthcare goes lost productivity,” Price said.

Healthy priorities

Price said the priorities include designing new schools that put sidewalks to use.

“As the city’s ability to plat and plan those, we have to take a look at those type of policies. How do we encourage parents, grandparents to walk their kids to school?” Price asked.

She said the city is committed to building “complete streets” that allow for more walking and bicycle travel.

Texas Health Resources paid $500,000 for an evaluation of Fort Worth’s suitability for the Blue Zones program in August, which city officials agreed to do.

“Road shows” should start this summer to explain the goals of the five-year project to the community and to recruit volunteers, said Julie Wilson, vice president of Blue Zones for Fort Worth.

Medical savings

The goals of the project locally include generating savings in medical expenses, lowering obesity and smoking rates, increasing vegetable consumption and increasing physical activity.

Landry said the Blue Zones are similar to Masterpiece Living’s program for older residents.

“So much of what we are now discovering about what we need to do to be healthy is really rediscovering a lifestyle that humans have lived for eons. We move all the time. We were hunter-gatherers. … We were socially engaged in a way that went beyond just friendliness but was about survival and a higher common purpose,” Landry said.

“No one was marginalized. We [put out to pasture] our older adults, like horses,” he said. “Blue Zones are a living, breathing example of this kind of society.”