Music, exercise, gray hair: Here's a look at pandemic passions that are here to stay – Arizona Daily Star

Not all of us have hobbies and that’s ok. Yair Ben-Dor has more.
NEW YORK (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.
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, pictured, 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.”
Making learning a foreign language your family’s new hobby is a très bonne idée. There are a wide variety of free and affordable softwares, apps and online resources. Along with doing lessons, you can practice vocabulary and conversation skills together as well as watch shows and movies and listen to music in the language you’re learning.
Along with their bounties of beautiful flowers or fresh herbs, at-home gardens can offer numerous physical and mental benefits to you and your family. Gardening outdoors boosts your vitamin D intake, fights stress, decreases risk of dementia and is a form of aerobic exercise. Working in a garden can also help you maintain a healthy weight, get a good night’s sleep and improve your mood and self-esteem.
Look at the world around you with new eyes by picking up photography as a hobby. You can start just by using the camera inside your smartphone. Learn about and play with lighting, angles, composition, exposure and more. Stage a family photo shoot, or simply go on a walk around your neighborhood looking for beautiful images to capture. (Monzenmachi/Getty Images/TNS)
Dancing is a wonderful way to exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels that doesn’t require much space, experience or equipment. Along with improving heart and lung health, coordination, agility, balance and flexibility, it challenges your brain, improves memory, reduces stress and anxiety and allows for creative expression. From ballroom to country line dancing to hip-hop, there’s a style of dance out there for everyone in your family.
Jigsaw puzzles are a relaxing family activity that are also good for the brain. Putting a jigsaw puzzle together has many health benefits, including reducing stress and improving memory, reaction times and problem-solving skills. The activity can also help kids improve spatial skills and social skills like collaboration and cooperation. (filadendron/Getty Images/TNS)
Children, teens and adults alike can benefit from learning a musical instrument. Playing music leads to better communication skills, improved emotional release and decreased anxiety, and jamming and practicing together promotes mental health, brain function and social connection. (stockstudioX/Getty Images/TNS)
Volunteering is a rewarding way to use your time, skills and resources to give back to the community and support causes you care about as a family. You can agree on an organization or activity together or let different family members choose each time you volunteer. There are countless ways to get involved, whether it’s getting your hands dirty cleaning up a local park or serving remotely by organizing a food drive or reading to seniors on video call. (Thomas Barwick/Getty Images/TNS)
Another hobby you can safely do from home is start a collection. Whether it’s stamps or coins or dolls or trading cards, find something you and your family find fascinating and start learning as much as you can about it. Choose something that has a low entry cost to start collecting and that also has nostalgia or sentimental value to you and your loved ones. (Anna Usova/Getty Images/TNS)
It might seem intimidating, but investing can actually be a hobby for the whole family and teach kids — and even adults — financial literacy skills. You don’t need to be a high roller either. You can buy small amounts of shares in kid-approved companies like Walt Disney, McDonald’s or Apple, then keep up-to-date on the markets together. To get started, many mutual fund companies, such as Fidelity and Vanguard, have tutorials and resources for young or novice investors.
Whether it’s a peaceful stroll or an arduous trek, hiking is great for the mind and body. Hiking is one of the best ways to get exercise. According to the National Park Services, it helps improve balance and heart health, builds stronger muscles and bones, and decreases the risk of certain respiratory problems. Hiking also allows you to spend restorative time in nature, which reduces stress, calms anxiety and can lead to a lower risk of depression.
If you’re more interested in relaxing by the water, fishing could be the perfect fit for you. Fishing requires focus and awareness which can help you take your mind off of your problems and relieve stress. You’ll soak up vitamin D from being outside and still get exercise from casting, reeling and more.
Want to hike, fish and then enjoy a crackling campfire at the end of the day? Camping might be the perfect new hobby for you and your family. Whether it’s in your backyard or a beautiful local park, camping is the ultimate hobby as it combines fresh air, exercise, cooking, unplugging from technology and practicing practical skills like tying knots and starting a fire.
Jewelry making is another hobby that combines many different skills and engages hand-eye-coordination, problem-solving and creativity. You and your loved ones can start with basic beading then build to more advanced techniques like metal work, clay sculpting, glass fusing and more. (Lucy Lambriex/Getty Images/TNS)
Teaching your dog tricks can be a practical and fun way to engage your four-legged friends as well as your family. Obedience and tricks can provide mental stimulation for your dog as well as increase their flexibility, balance, endurance and concentration. It can also engage you and your family’s problem-solving skills and creativity and boost your confidence as pet owners.
Geocaching is a fun activity for families who enjoy scavenger hunts or treasure hunts and exploring outdoors. The goal is to find camouflaged containers, called geocaches, based on GPS coordinates. This hobby requires problem-solving and orienteering skills and amps up the excitement of basic walks or hikes.
Yoga is another form of exercise for all ages and fitness levels that can easily be done by a group at home. Yoga’s focus on mind-body connection gives it benefits beyond physical fitness and flexibility. It also helps promote mindfulness, reduces stress and anxiety, improves concentration, and teaches patience and perseverance. It can be particularly beneficial for children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other special needs.
Lighting a candle can help you relax or help you create boundaries between spaces or activities in your day. If you enjoy candles, you can try your hand at making your own. On top of potentially being economical, making your own candles means you can be creative and customize them just the way you want.
With people spending more time at home, many time-consuming, “old-fashioned” hobbies have come back into fashion, including canning. You and your family can make jams, jellies, sauces, pickles and more using tried-and-true techniques or modern conveniences like a pressure cooker. Canning is also a great hobby to go in tandem with growing your own fruit and vegetable garden at home.
What’s the use of homemade jam without something to serve it on? Baking breads, pastries, cakes and more is a fun, tasty activity for all ages. It can be stress-relieving, creative and a way to show thanks and appreciation to those around you if you plan on sharing your home baked treats. It’s also a wonderful way to celebrate and preserve family history by passing down beloved recipes.
Along with knitting and crocheting, sewing has also seen a resurgence in interest for a variety of reasons, including being more sustainable and eco-friendly. This hobby can give you and your family an outlet to do something creative with your hands. The required concentration and hand-eye coordination can be relaxing and stress-relieving, while pride in the finished product can boost your mental health.
If you’re the type of family who has a costume trunk or enjoys going to fan conventions and events, perhaps now is the time to use your crafting or sewing skills to start cosplaying. Short for “costume play,” cosplay involves dressing up as your favorite characters from movies, books, video games and more. Many cosplayers make their own costumes and accessories to bring their favorite characters to life.
If you and your family have been batting around the idea of starting a business or turning a hobby into a side hustle, now could be the time to make that dream a reality. Dedicate time every week to work together to develop your products, build a website, do research, take training courses and more. (svetikd/Getty Images/TNS)
Origami, the art of paper folding, is an affordable, accessible craft that is physically and mentally engaging. It requires hand-eye coordination, spatial skills and concentration and can be a meditative and relaxing experience.
Another hobby that’s been around for generations, scrapbooking is a way to preserve and creatively display family photos and memories. The blank pages of a scrapbook can be filled with photos as well as other memorabilia like ticket stubs then decorated with a wide variety of embellishments as well as notes with details like names, dates and places.
Another way to stay connected to your family history or to American history is quilting. Quilts are blankets made out of three woven layers that often tell stories through their designs. Quilts can be traditional or modern using updated fabrics and patterns that can fit any style.
Another classic hobby that can include family members in-person and remotely is a book club. Everyone reads the same book then comes together to discuss it. Family members can take turns leading the conversation and coming up with discussion questions. You can make things more interactive by doing a craft or activity or making snacks based on the setting or theme of the story.
Take family movie night to the next level by starting a film club. Choose a slate of movies to watch from family favorites to Hollywood classics to decorated foreign films. Discuss the films afterward or each write your own review of the film. Flex your analytical skills by considering why certain scenes were impactful, what you thought of the score and more.
Board games are a great way to pass the time with family and friends of all ages and interests. For kids, they’re a great way to learn about teamwork and winning and losing gracefully and can also encourage brain development, language and organization skills and longer attention spans. For adults, they can engage the mind and promote memory function, language skills and spatial ability.
Word games like Scrabble work multiple regions of the brain, including memory, can help keep your brain sharp and can help you and your family members expand your vocabulary. (Mitch Hutchinson/
Another social, brain-boosting game is Mahjong. Studies suggest the challenging Chinese tile game can improve overall brain health, help treat dementia and reduce rates of depression in older adults.
Fans of the popular Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit” have been buying chess sets in droves, and it could also be the perfect new hobby for you and your family. This strategic, two-person game improves concentration and memory, increases intelligence, hones planning skills and helps players learn to think from another person’s perspective.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life that you lose touch with friends and family. One way to stay connected with them and flex your creative muscles is to start a family blog or vlog. Use words, pictures or videos to document your daily life while learning all about different editing tools, effects, equipment and more.
Magic is another style of performing arts that is not only entertaining but also beneficial. Learning tricks can help develop creativity and problem-solving, help you practice public speaking and presentation skills and build up confidence. It also tickles the brain of whoever is watching the trick being performed, engaging critical thinking skills and curiosity.
Dungeons and Dragons is a creative role-playing game that lets people imagine a rich fantasy world. The highly collaborative game helps hone social, spatial and problem-solving skills.
If you and your family are tired of staring at screens, consider taking up astronomy and looking at the night sky instead? You can invest in a pair of binoculars or a telescope, but there is plenty to be seen with the naked eye. You can use online resources like sky maps, phone apps and more to help you and your family navigate the galaxy from your own backyard.
You and your family can start your own captivating underwater world at home with an aquarium. An aquarium hobby is a great way to learn about and interact with marine life, from fish to snails to coral. (Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images/TNS)
If you and your family are spending more time at home, you might be inclined to spruce things up. And redecorating different spaces can be a collaborative family activity. You can work as a family to pick out color schemes, shop for furniture and more so everyone can take pride in the outcome. (visualspace/Getty Images/TNS)
If you’re in need of some new furniture, perhaps you solve your problem and learn a new hobby by making something yourself. Woodworking can be a peaceful and relaxing way to work with your hands and employ both logical and creative thinking.
There are plenty of hobbies that will allow you and your family to have finished final products you can enjoy and share, including soap making. Making your own soap involves chemistry and creativity, allows you to save money and is a way to avoid irritating ingredients if you have allergies or sensitivities.
If you have always been curious about your family’s history, perhaps it’s time to take a deep dive into genealogy. With a variety of online resources as well as DNA testing services, it’s never been easier to trace back your family tree. Finding your roots can help make history come alive and connect you with people with similar backgrounds.
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