Nathan Daniel is the executive director of Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation, an independent, non-profit organization geared toward ensuring the sustainability of the region’s more than 200 parks. Every other Tuesday, TMPF holds a guided walk designed specifically for people with dementia and their caregivers. The walks take place at 10 a.m. in Idlewild Park. The next one is scheduled for Oct. 18. Learn more by visiting tmparksfoundation.org.
Where did the idea for this walk come from?
We have an umbrella initiative called Healthy Parks Healthy People. … The idea being that when we get people out into the parks, they become healthier by having physical activity. … It’s also good for their mental health—open space. And, in turn, when people are using parks, they will tend to invest more and appreciate what we have and become better stewards of the parks, and, basically, try to convince policy makers … to put more money in the parks, to invest in the open spaces. … So we do a lot of different walks for a lot of different demographics, but we’ve never worked with such a specific group. And we went and talked with the Alzheimer’s Association … as well as the Sanford Center for Aging, and they were both interested in this idea of doing walks specifically for people living with dementia—primarily Alzheimer’s. … Our expertise is in doing walks, basically. … They’re all natural history based, so a lot of ecology, geology … and some cultural history. So this was a great opportunity to use this park as a place where we could get a structured kind of walk together, where people living with dementia could get out and do sort of the same trail but look at change over time through the seasons. … We went to the City of Reno’s [Senior Citizen Advisory Committee] … and they have some funding, so they gave us a few thousand dollars to run the whole program for a year.
The walks are free for participants?
Yeah, the walks are free for participants. And you have to be somebody living with dementia, and you have to have a caregiver come with you.
Tell me a little bit more about how the walks are structured.
We start here at the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation office, and then we have—it’s … about three-quarters of a mile. It’s basically a loop, and we go off past the California Building, down through the Rose Garden, past the police officer memorial. … Basically you have some key plant species that we stop and look at every time to, you know, just look at change over the season.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from participants?
Yeah, the feedback has been great from the folks that are coming. We have a lot of regulars that come every two weeks, and they have said that it is helping them create a community of people in similar situations … not only for people living with dementia, but also for the caregivers, which are mostly husbands and wives.
Anything you want to add?
Just the fact that we’re going to continue to do these walks through January. … We’re just trying to get some folks to give it a shot and see if it’s something that’s good for them.