A common answer these days to the question, “How are you doing?” is “Hanging in there.” What helps people to hang in there when they can’t hang out with others? Outside the Patagonia Senior Center, people often talk about ways they have found to survive, or even thrive, in this time of social distancing and seclusion.

Picking up a lunch at the Center offers a chance to get out of the house, and occasionally eat with a friend in the park. Many people have mentioned experiencing ups and downs—some days enjoying gardening, walking and doing creative projects, and other days feeling weighed down by what is happening in their lives and in the world. Here are a few of the responses given by seniors to the question of how they are coping during this time.

“Psychologists confirm what many of us already know – that we live in depressing times, perhaps unlike any we have ever experienced. I try to counter depression by doing things I consider worthwhile and beneficial to myself and to others,” Chuck Kelly said. “Volunteering at the Senior Center, helping provide nutritious lunches, and driving people to medical appointments are some of the ways I’ve found to light a proverbial candle, rather than to curse the darkness. I believe that to give one’s full attention to another is to bless them, and to radiate a deeply felt joy for living is more persuasive than any words can convey, and that the only human emotion greater and stronger than fear is love.”

“The number one thing is to get out into nature, even if only in your backyard,” Georgette Larrouy said. “Take early morning walks and look up, look down, smell everything. Plants are our sisters and brothers. It helps to touch them and talk to them. Music is also very important. Listen to powerful, soaring, emotional music, like the aria, “Nessun Dorma.” It doesn’t have to be classical. Whatever you choose should have “big sound” that brings a rise of big emotion that touches your heart, pulls it up out of depression or confusion.”

“I’m seeing this time as an opportunity for change,” Lars Marshall said. “It stirs things up. I’m coming up with ideas, using imagination for things I haven’t thought of before, how to do things a different way. I’m reassessing everything! I’m having a kind of awakening. I think, ‘Oh, that was a silly way of doing things!’ I’m home six days a week, working at my computer. One day a week I visit two friends and we sit outside ten feet apart. I have to be careful,” he added. “I’m a tremendously social person. Being an extrovert, I am now taking a break from myself. If I have a bad day and can’t be my usual social self, I say, ‘I don’t feel good today.’ When I go to Red Mountain Foods and see 15 people I haven’t seen in a long time, my appreciation of them is multiplied from not seeing them constantly!”

“Cooking, cleaning, gardening, laundry – no letup, no help – just me at 85, along with my spouse (equally mature) picking up the tasks of home care and personal care. I sank down into the ordinariness of it all without much grace,” Rosanna Kazantian said. “Then, a friend sent me a suggestion of an online retreat. I have done so many retreats in the past I ask myself, am I up for this? …It turned out the Benedictine Sisters from the monastery of St Gertrude offered a refreshing alternative to the endless bad news of the day. They created a process for exploring feelings about these difficult and troubling times through poems, artwork, and writing. It has felt honest, hopeful, a way out and a way in. I look forward to my mornings of reflection with non-linear thinking, playfulness on paper and new insights.”

“I speak to my friends by phone, which I find helpful. I’ve also had the TV on a lot,” Irene Smith said. “After seeing medical ads, I found myself saying ‘Oh, I think I have that disease!’” “Then after another ad, ‘I think I must have that too!’ Fortunately, my friend assured me that I didn’t have any of those problems.”