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Music, exercise, gray hair: Pandemic practices that live on

Taking a look at some of the changes we made that seemed to stick around
This photo shows Julian Peyton, 18, at Grand National Golf Course at Opelika, Alabama, on Nov. 10, 2022. Julian and his father, Matthew, took up golf during the pandemic. The sport turned into a passion for both. (Matthew Peyton via AP).

Dusting off old musical instruments, appreciating the outdoors more meaningfully, dumping the hair dye and letting the gray fly forever.

The pandemic disrupted our traditions, practices and pursuits, how we mark milestones, what we do with our time, what’s important in routines. It replaced old with new, a kind of new that just might stick.

Nearly three years after the World Health Organization declared the deadly spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, there’s plenty of old life mixed with the new. And, yes, the latter includes a whole lot of Zooming still going on among families, colleagues and friends, near and far.

Here’s a look at pandemic passions that for some are here to stay:


That sax in the corner. The piano that looks so nice in the living room but was rarely played. People picked up their instruments again, some after decades, to flex their musical muscles.

They’re not looking for concert careers, but they’re dedicated in their rediscoveries.

Bob Dorobis in Middletown, New Jersey, worked intensely to improve his guitar fingerpicking during the pandemic after a long break. Now, the 70-year-old software developer is looking forward to more practice time in retirement.

“When your fingerpicking sounds good it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I finally realized the only way for me to like it better is to learn it better.”


The post-lockdown economy wasn’t kind to Peloton when its stock tanked as many pandemic newbies lost their mojo. Many, but not all. We’ve got newcomers seriously spinning on.

Amid all the spinning, folks who hadn’t worked out in years are now committed to running, working up to half-marathons and beyond.

We have bicycle enthusiasts who hadn’t ridden since childhood. And we have walkers who mapped out where to find the best cats to visit and are steadfast in their feline wandering on foot.

Beth Lehman, a Greenville, New York, nanny, hopped on a bike for the first time in years while teaching one of her young charges during the pandemic. Now, the whole family she works for rides with her, including a grandfather in his mid-80s.

“I faked confidence,” she said of taking to two wheels again.


Craving company, we stood on lawns, sidewalks and cul-de-sacs to check in with each other. We brought homemade soups to senior shut-ins. We turned over armfuls of fresh-cut flowers from our gardens. We lingered for a socially distanced chat.

Commitments to random acts of kindness directed at the elderly living alone continues, with neighborly schedules made for snow shoveling and pies delivered for the holidays.

Lisa and Larry Neula in Sacramento, California, shared the gift of aloha with their neighbors. She was a competitive Hawaiian dancer and hula instructor and he’s a member of the famous Lim Family singers of Kohala.

Together, they entertained their neighbors during the pandemic from their driveway and continue their performances there today.

“If you get one person who shows they want to be social, then the other people catch on. It gets to be contagious,” Lisa said. “I don’t want to take all the credit, but it makes me a better person.”


Gardening turned into restful curation. It also was a way to get some extra exercise and grow fresh food.

That meant bushy old shrubs that were once a chore became manicured assets that are a joy to tend. More grass lawns were ripped up to plant native-plant gardens and wildflower meadows, and vegetable gardening saw a boom.

Gardening has new, lasting lovers.

“Now, I rarely watch TV,” said Kelly Flor-Robinson in Bethany Beach, Delaware.


Some women tossed the hair dye. Some their blow dryers.

They’ve chosen to embrace their inner curliness and gray. Today, they can’t be bothered going back after nearly three years of natural hair.

“In March 2020, right after everyone was basically in lockdown, I ignored the reminder in my calendar to do the root touch-up, and I ignored the next and the next and so on,” said Susan Cuccinello in Ossining, New York.

“I remember when salons started opening back up and several of my friends were so relieved they could get their hair and roots colored again. That didn’t sway me one bit. And my hair is actually thicker and healthier. Plus it’s great to smash another relic of the patriarchy!”

Others gave up makeup and underwire. They once considered both a necessity but were freed in isolation. They’re still happily going without.


With a newfound embrace of the outdoors, some sports attracted new enthusiasts.

Pickleball picked up players, growing its fan base and expanding the demand for courts. That has upset a tennis player or two, or four.

For others, it was golf.

In Maplewood, New Jersey, Matthew Peyton and his son, Julian, discovered golf together. Julian now works as a fitter in a sports shop and is eyeing college golf programs. They had never played before.

“So there I am. Single dad with a 15-year-old, active teenage boy who won’t be going to school for two years,” he said. “We don’t know what’s safe. We don’t touch door knobs or go to the store. But the golf course is our refuge. You’re 300 yards away from anyone else all by yourself. It’s like a private oasis.”


We’re still logging lots of Zoom time for work, book club, family visits and meetups with old friends. But there are other lasting uses that were born of pandemic necessity.

Bridal couples streaming their weddings, for instance, or Zoom memorials for lost loved ones.

Non-work Zooms today, with real-life back in swing, have thoroughly committed devotees. So do webinars, from art history to virtually exploring an exotic locale.

Samantha Martin, who splits her time between New York and West Palm Beach, Florida, relied a lot on Zoom and WhatsApp to visit with loved ones back home in Hong Kong and around the world. That morphed into “Sunday stories,” a practice she continues today.

“Every Sunday night I have dinner or breakfast, depending on the time difference, with a friend or family member around the world,” Martin said. “The calendar is full one to two months in advance.”


The world shut down, and that included a lot of after-school soccer, chess and Mandarin for kids. For some families, the slower pace stuck and they’re down to maybe one extracurricular a week.

The opposite is true for other families. Some kids picked up new activities because they were available during the pandemic and are thrilled to keep them going.


Curbside pickup. Grocery delivery. Those mainstays of pandemic life are new priorities for some former in-store enthusiasts.

“I used to enjoy food shopping, but this saves so much time and overspending on my part so I stuck with it,” said Amanda Sheronas Spencer in Malvern, Pennsylvania.

“If I do go in person, I have to stick to my list, which is difficult for a person who loves food and cooking! Grocery stores are like shiny objects to me.”

—Leanne Italie, The Associated Press

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