Blue Zones May be coming to Macon County in the near future.

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Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

Sallie Taylor, 20-year resident of Franklin, addressed the Franklin Town Council about Macon County becoming a “Blue Zone” at Monday’s meeting of the Town Council. As the Town Board listened to Taylor’s presentation regarding how Blue Zones work, they asked questions and appeared receptive to hearing more about the criteria and whether it would be welcome here in Macon County.

“Blue Zones” according to National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner, are places in the world where people live longer and healthier than anywhere else on earth. The five Blue Zones that have been identified so far are: the Italian Island of Sardinia, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, Calif., Costa Rica’s isolated Nicola Peninsula and Ikaria, an isolated Greek Island. 

Buettner’s research, combined with longevity studies, has been used to develop programs that help people live longer, healthier, happier lives by optimizing their surroundings to best replicate the nine principles observed in the original Blue Zone areas.

1. The first is to move naturally, no pumping iron or rigorous exercising, just moving about through gardening, yard work or other types of activities such as cleaning the house. This is all done without use of mechanical help. Councilman David Culpepper felt that the local bike paths could meet this criteria. 

2. Next is to have a purpose, a reason to wake up in the morning. Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life. 

3. Down shift, even people in Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that most don’t, are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.

4. Follow the 80% rule. Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. 

5. Put less meat and more plants on your plate. Plant beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian (100-year-olds) diets. Meat is eaten on average only five times a month.

6. Drink wine. People in Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1 to 2 glasses per day with friends and/or with food.

7. Belonging to a faith-based community and attending services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

8. Put loved ones first. Successful centenarians keep aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.

9. The worlds longest lived people chose – or were born into  – social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research from the Framingham Studies show that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. 

Taylor pointed out that these nine criteria are not mandatory but they are suggestions for success. Macon and Jackson counties are already transitioning from Phase 1 into Phase 2. Phase I in this initiative is a community leadership presentation for which key stakeholders and community leaders are identified and contacted within Highlands, Cashiers, Sylva and Franklin. A presentation will be given by the end of June to begin Phase 2, the Community Development Process.

Taylor was not asking for the board’s approval, but for their endorsement of this project. She also noted that 47 communities are going through this process right now.

Recently Fort Worth, Texas, and several cities in Iowa have become “Blue Zone” Communities.

Board member Joe Collins said that he was not comfortable with two of the nine criteria.  He was referring to the faith-based and alcohol criteria. Taylor again noted that these were suggestions and were not mandatory. Residents would be free to pick and choose from the nine criteria. She again invited the board members to attend the phase 2 presentation in June where many questions could be answered.

Tractor trailers to avoid the gorge

Highland’s Mayor Patrick Taylor, was present at the meeting to discuss the issue of tractor trailers using the Cullasaja Gorge to navigate between Franklin and Highlands and the surrounding areas. He said that there needs to be a more clear definition of tractor trailers. As of now, they are defined by weight or number of axles and he said that signs should be directed to read that no tractor trailers at all, should be allowed on the gorge as it is simply too dangerous. Taking Route 106 is a much safer way for these vehicles to travel. He also spoke about radar activated signs urging large trucks to turn around and avoid the gorge, but this requires the help of DOT (Department of Transportation) and the Highway Patrol. It would also cost money to implement. A legislative change would have to come from the N.C. House and Senate to do this. The board was receptive to this advice and will work with Taylor to get it done. Franklin Mayor Bob Scott added that many Macon residents travel the gorge to work and having a tractor trailer get stuck in front of you creates problems for those trying to get to their job.

Retired police to obtain service weapons for $1

A request has been made concerning retired police officers with 15 years of service or more, to be awarded their service weapon upon their retirement, for $1.  The board felt that this was a reasonable request but stated that there may be exceptions where an officer had been injured on the job and had completed fewer years of service. They could look at those type of cases on an individual basis. The board agreed that 15 years of service would be a good benchmark for retired officers to be eligible to be awarded their service weapon.

Lazy Hiker acquires old Town Hall property

The Lazy Hiker Brewery has purchased the old Town Hall at the price of $235,000. The board suggested that the money could stay in their account until June 30 which is the start of the new fiscal year, as they still have a surplus of funds in this year’s budget. 

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