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Laguna Beach

 Volume 14, Issue 96  |  December 2, 2022

Feeling the coronavirus blues? Laguna Beach Seniors stands ready to help


Picture this: an elderly father and his adult son live together in a typically tiny Laguna home. The adult son has lost his job because of COVID-19 and decides that this is a good time to practice his saxophone-playing skills. At first the father doesn’t mind, but after a while the repetition of the music annoys him. He loses his temper and yells at his son. 

In turn, the son feels annoyed by constant interruptions during the day from his father, who wants to know how to download Zoom, or how to watch a Netflix show, or asks to have a jar lid loosened because of his arthritic hands.

Father and son end up at loggerheads. Stress levels rise. They stop talking. Alcohol is consumed, making things worse.*

Enter Susi Q’s Feeling the Blues program, a donation/grant-funded one-on-one counseling program designed to help people over the age of 55 deal with the challenges that come with aging. The therapy is situational and short-term, up to 14 sessions depending on need.

Feeling the Kay

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Submitted photo

Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, is LBS’s Behavioral Health Supervisor

Behavioral Health Supervisor Kathleen “Kay” Wenger, LMFT, LPCC, the owner of Laguna Beach Counseling, has been working with Laguna Beach Seniors since 2009 and helped design the program. In addition to the Feeling the Blues program, Kay now supervises six Behavioral Health Support Programs at the Susi Q, including the Men’s and Chronic Illness Support groups.

How Feeling the Blues works

Kay explains how Feeling the Blues works. “We have five incredible licensed therapists available to counsel seniors who find themselves in emotional distress, especially during these difficult times. These days we do almost all of our counseling by phone/telehealth. 

“In the case described above, we talked to the father and the son separately, using Zoom. That gave them each an opportunity to process their feelings – commonly known as venting! We validated their frustrations and gave suggestions on how to approach their loved one differently. 

“The father and son have reported back that implementing the techniques that they discussed with the therapists was helpful.”

Feeling the group

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Submitted photo

Laguna Beach Seniors’ staff at the Susi Q: (L-R) Martha Hernandez, Jo Ann Ekblad, Christine Brewer, Judy Baker, executive director Nadia Babayi, and John Fay

Nadia Babayi, executive director of Laguna Beach Seniors, is extremely proud of the work that the Feeling the Blues therapists are doing. 

“I’d like to give a shout-out to everyone involved with this program, therapists and staff, for providing such an important service,” Nadia says. “First of all, thanks to Kay, who has done a marvelous job supervising our behavioral health services, and our wonderful counselors.

“I want to mention them by name: Anne Schroeder, LMFT; Clint Christie, LMFT; Sandra Weiss, PhD; Laura Lee Townsend, AMFT, APCC; Diane Fisher, AMFT; Vivian Clekac, LCSW; Lori Osborn; John Fay, MSG; and Martha Hernandez, LCSW. Thanks to all for being so generous with your time and expertise.”

Resilience in the face of challenges

Happily, Kay says, many seniors over the age of 80 turn out to be remarkably resilient.

“They’ve gone through so many crises and upheavals during their long lives, from wars to recessions, so they’re not as anxious as you might imagine. Also, a number of them have been widowed or alone for a long time, so they’ve already set up coping mechanisms such as setting up a regular routine or doing yoga or tai chi through YouTube.

“And, importantly, quite a few have taken advantage of Laguna Beach Seniors’ many support groups so they already have connections with Susi Q programs.”

Sessions can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as 55 minutes. Typical concerns include family grievances – which, in these pandemic petri dish days, can spiral out of control – as well as couples’ relationships.

Feeling the computer

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Submitted photo

Kay consults with a client online

“Simple habits or tics, like a husband sneezing too loudly, or a wife biting her nails, can result in pointless but heated arguments,” she says. “It’s just human nature to get irritated with each other at times and it’s not going to get any easier as we stay at home for the next weeks and notice these things more. 

“On the flip side, I know of partners and other family members telling each other how glad they are not to be alone, that they would be lost without the other, and appreciate one another more than ever.”

Kay worries about seniors and baby boomers out there who are suffering but don’t know of the therapy offered through Laguna Beach Seniors’ Feeling the Blues services. 

“I so wish that everyone who knows friends or neighbors over the age of 55 would spread the message that we’re here to help,” she says.

Strategies to reduce anxiety and depression

Kay recommends several strategies for minimizing anxiety.

“I think journaling is great. Talk with your loved ones, pick up that phone instead of emailing or texting. Watch educational TED Talks on YouTube and TV programs on history and art. Travel the world through documentaries. Minimize alcohol intake – that’s an important one,” she notes. 

“Best of all, call us at Laguna Beach Seniors or email us to set up an appointment if you need help. Now’s a great opportunity to seek the therapy you’ve always wanted but didn’t have the time to do before – and from the comfort of your own home!”

Call Martha Hernandez, LCSW, at (949) 715-8104 to learn more about the program and to be connected to a therapist. 

Laguna Beach Seniors is based at the Susi Q Senior and Community Center. Visit for more information.

*Please note that identifying details in the case have been changed to preserve anonymity.


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

Alexis Amaradio, Dennis McTighe, Marrie Stone, Sara Hall, Suzie Harrison and Theresa Keegan are our writers and/or columnists.

In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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