Every day, a dozen or so seniors gather at the Diamond Hill Community Center to get their steps in. But they’re not just walking. These Moai participants are socializing, sharing stories, and making lifelong friendships that will keep them moving for years to come.
On just about any given weekday morning, you can usually find Josefina Faulder walking laps around the small park adjacent to the Diamond Hill Community Center. If it’s raining, she simply moves inside to the community center gym. Josefina is just one of more than a dozen local residents who meet daily in this close-knit neighborhood on Fort Worth’s north side to socialize, share stories, and get their steps in through a Blue Zones Project Walking Moai.
Moai is a concept from Okinawa, Japan, that means coming together for a common purpose. The Okinawans are some of the world’s longest-living people who join together to support each other in times of need. Moais are primarily a social activity, with exercise being secondary.
The community center first launched the Moais last summer, attracting 37 seniors ranging in age from 60 to 81 who met once a week for 10 weeks to walk and talk. At the end of the 10 weeks, participants reported that they had experienced increased accountability, strengthened relationships, and had lost an average of 5-10 pounds per person. And they made a commitment to continue their regular walking routine – on a daily basis. “The Walking Moai program helped me increase my steps from 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day,” said Josefina. “I enjoy walking with my friends and I even lost weight!”
While the Moais are perhaps the most visible Blue Zones Project action the community center has undertaken, it is by no means the only one. Two bilingual Blue Zones Project parking spaces were installed at the far end of the parking lot to encourage staff and members to move naturally and park farther way. Well-being messages were placed throughout the building. The center also hosted Purpose Workshops and plant-based cooking demonstrations for the employees and members. Employees were also given a quiet space where they can downshift and meditate, and they now have more control over their individual workspaces. As a result, Diamond Hill Community Center became the first community center in the city to achieve Blue Zones Project Approved™ worksite status.
Enthusiasm for Blue Zones Project isn’t just contained to the community center. Diamond Hill is all-in for better well-being and has one of the highest concentrations of participation in the city. The Diamond Hill Neighborhood Association is a Blue Zones Project Participating Organization, and several schools are Blue Zones Project Approved, including Diamond Hill Elementary, Diamond Hill Jarvis High School, H.V. Helbing Elementary, Kirkpatrick Elementary, M.H. Moore Elementary, and W.J. Turner Elementary.
Josefina continues to be all-in too and plans to be at the community center every morning. “Walking each morning with my friends and counting my steps gives me something to look forward to,” she said.