Help Seniors Connect With Nature & Build Family Memories

In 2019, Glenn Sweitzer, a Franklin-based photographer, videographer and graphic designer, decided to form Trails Please Foundation, a charity to connect individuals with the healing properties of nature. “I contacted my attorney and I was told it could take a year,” he reminisces. “But it took two months! The experience was like delivering a baby after two weeks. I wasn’t even ready.”

But “being ready” didn’t stop Sweitzer from taking action. Trails Please Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with three components: Foot to Soil, Nature Bound, and Nature’s Way Scholarships. (Learn more.)

At the core of the organization is Nature Bound, which provides outdoor experiences for seniors in assisted living homes, many of whom rarely or never have the opportunity to be near a campfire or sift dirt through their hands.

“My mom passed April 1 last year,” begins Sweitzer. “I was her caregiver and best friend. Seeing my mom in assisted living every day was sad. I wished she had nature in her life. It wasn’t until I went on vacation and was camping that I woke up and realized I needed to pivot Trails Please Foundation to serve seniors. Nature heals. The wilderness provides wellness. How can I adapt to work with seniors, I thought?”

With Nature Bound, Sweitzer and volunteer assistants can take approximately six seniors, as well as their loved ones, outside. “We have amazing parks in Williamson and Davidson Counties,” he says, “but I wanted to take seniors to some place without any noise or distraction.”

The organization currently has a commitment from Amy Grant, who has permitted Nature Bound the use of her Franklin, TN, property. Well-suited to the needs of seniors, with bathroom facilities and overhangs to protect from sun and rain, the space will allow guests to be far removed from the indoors while remaining accessible and senior-friendly.

Participants can enjoy a hike, fresh air, a campfire, and other activities. As a part of the excursion, Sweitzer will interview each participant, asking three questions, which can be recorded on video and saved as a family heirloom for descendants. Senior participants will also have portrait photos taken, individually and with their loved one(s) present.

Moose Bound, the organization’s motorhome van will be on site with a printer. Each senior participant will leave with a framed photo, as well as digital files.

“And, lastly, we have to have a campfire. I want them to go back home with the smell of campfire, a smell that triggers memories,” he says. “Nature Bound is all about spending time outside and having those nurturing moments. If I can help create a memory that this parent and adult child will embrace, a moment that the child will talk about after the parent is gone, then I consider these events a success.”

For more information about Nature Bound and Trails Please Foundation, visit https://www.trailsplease.org/.

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