Cedar Falls – Instituting workplace exercise classes, stocking vending machines with healthier options and starting lunchtime walking groups helped Western Home Communities become a designated Blue Zones Worksite™ in May.


“We’re in the business of taking care of people, and we’ve always maintained that we must take care of ourselves so we can do that job well,” explains CEO Kris Hansen, who leads the non-profit organization of 500 employees.   “The Blue Zones Project™ provided a terrific way to engage our employees toward that goal.”


More than 25% of employees completed a pledge action of their own choosing, designed to nudge them toward improved well-being. Those actions ranged from getting a bicycle or a dog, to attending a purpose workshop or regular church services.


The work toward becoming a certified Blue Zones worksite at Western Home Communities coincided with the hiring of a wellness coordinator, Amanda Lynch, who implemented a regular schedule of yoga and circuit exercise classes for employees, along with lunchtime walking groups and personal coaching.


Lynch and members of the dining services team also offer regular healthy cooking classes for employees of the continuing care retirement community that serves more than 800 residents.


Among the special events planned by the wellness team during the worksite certification process included an intuitive eating workshop and a meal featuring Blue Zones-approved foods.  Efforts like that will continue.


“What I love about the Blue Zones Project is its focus on overall well-being, not just physical health,” Lynch explains.  “It’s a perfect fit at Western Home Communities because we encourage our employees and our residents to strive for emotional, spiritual, social and intellectual wellness, too.”


Western Home Communities is the tenth of the designated Top 20 employers in Cedar Falls to become a designated Blue Zones Worksite. That fulfills the worksite requirement and puts the Blue Zones Project in Cedar Falls one step closer to its designation as a Blue Zones Community.