Carl and Joyce Bucciantini have spent a few more evenings by their gas fire pit since the COVID-19 pandemic has kept them closer to their home in Greene. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — If every day is feeling like the movie “Groundhog Day” with too much time at home in this age of COVID, Carl and Joyce Bucciantini have a few recommendations.

Waiting for summer when vaccines are hoped to be widely available, they’re avoiding cabin fever in a number of ways, ways that mirror suggestions in a John Hopkins University article “Coronavirus: Practicing Wellness While You Stay at Home.”

The retired Auburn couple, he’s 68, she’s 65, are like many being careful not to catch the virus.

“We’re the primary grocery shoppers for our parents,” she said.

Following expert advice, Carl and Joyce stay close to home and mask up when they leave the house. They’ve stopped going to the gym, meeting friends for a drink in restaurants and having the grandkids over.

But they haven’t given up on fun, volunteering, exercising and socializing.


“We have continued to do things we did before, but we do it slightly different,” Joyce said. They’ve structured and organized their time with purpose.

Carl and Joyce see their grandchildren on video chats. Church services can be online or in a parking lot. Going to restaurants is out for now, but “we enjoy takeouts,” he said.


Before retirement Carl worked in information technology for the Auburn Middle School. After retirement, he enjoyed volunteering for the Maine AARP. Wearing his red shirt he’d join 40 or 50 other AARP volunteers who “invaded” the third floor of the State House lobbying state lawmakers on issues such as prescription costs, affordable housing and expanding broadband internet service throughout Maine.

The red shirters commanded attention. Legislators “were falling over to take pictures with us. You don’t screw around retirees who are passionate about issues.” Carl said with a chuckle.

When COVID-19 hit, the in-person lobbying stopped. The retirees meet weekly, talk to lawmakers in Zoom meetings, and monitor legislative committee proceedings online. “They see the red shirts are still to be reckoned with.”


Joyce, a retired teacher, continues to do volunteer tutoring with Literacy Volunteers-Androscoggin. Instead of meeting with adult students one-on-one in person, lessons are on Zoom.


Vilene and John Farina, 67 and 69, respectively, are also staying safe at home and keeping busy. For fun, the Lewiston semiretired couple get together with friends participating in AARP’s monthly “On Tap” or morning coffee meetings. They used to meet at local breweries or restaurants. People showed up and chatted.

“We rely on volunteers all over the state who run the program,” John said.

“Now we still do it on Zoom. For the on-tap meetings “everybody sits down with a glass or wine” or beverage for the first half hour, followed by trivia games the next half hour.

It’s a way, they said, of keeping in touch and providing some normalcy.



Another important part of staying healthy and happy waiting out the winter is finding ways to move, indoors and out.

Vilene joins an online yoga class every Friday morning. There are endless exercise videos online, some live and some recorded, to help resemble an exercise class.

Carl and Joyce have turned their basement into a kind of a gym with new equipment. They bought a stationary bike and use suspension cables for weight training.

Even if someone doesn’t have the budget or space for equipment such as a treadmill or weight set, she said, a bedroom or living room can serve as a place for an exercise routine of running in place, planks, sit-ups or lifting weights using household items.

John Farina, a retired pharmacist, said more downtime at home has led him to be more observant, and grateful, of what’s around them outdoors.


Every morning he puts out seeds or stale bread in the backyard for  birds. More time at home has allowed him to observe, understand and appreciate crows. He’s become a fan of crows.

“I’ve seen them chase birds of prey, hawks, away,” he said. “They form a V around a bird and gradually move it out. It’s interesting to watch these crows at work.” The first time he watched that scene play out, “I was amazed,” he said.

Crow-watching has led to him do some research. He’s discovered that crows “have incredible intelligence. They do facial recognition” of humans they’re used to seeing, he said.

Vilene and John take frequent walks around their neighborhood. In Maine there’s usually room to walk outside while social distancing but still greet neighbors. In their neighborhood “we’ve met people we never knew,” she said.

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