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PART 1: How 81-year-old Loretta Kaminsky started over after losing her husband

Sandy White

According to Pew Research, older Americans who are 65 and older are working more than at any time since the turn of the century. Many retirees are working fulltime and launching new careers in their 60s, 70s and 80s. As WBFO’s Senior News Desk reporter Sandy White found out, staying active can be a fountain of youth for seniors like Loretta Kaminsky.

Pulsating, musical rhythms, swaying arms, taping feet,  and limber bodies move across the dance floor. It’s not your local night club, but an energy charged Zumba Gold Class in Amherst at the Independent Health Family Branch YMCA.

What brings these over 60 fast moving women and men into the gym? It’s not just the music.

Meet 81-year-old Loretta Kaminsky. Local Zumba enthusiasts can’t get enough of her.   

“I do two lines dances…I do a Cha Cha...I do a little bit of everything because it’s good for our minds as we get older to have to remember different things,” said Kaminsky.

Wearing a youthful haircut of blazing red styled hair, you quickly see Loretta Kaminsky means business.

“I love being here with everybody,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your age is. We don’t jump we don’t hop. We turn really slow, because I get dizzy too—it’s just great!”

You may actually already know Loretta. She created Loretta’s chocolate-covered popcorn, which is now in all of Wegman’s 90 stores.  This former kindergarten school teacher is constantly on the go as, in her words, she continues to reinvent herself.  

“It’s the smiles that I look for the smiles and the laughs, and when I screw up they love it…they love it!”

Kaminsky said after her husband 14 years ago her world was shattered. 

“You have a family, you have a husband and you’re going to work and  coming home and then all of sudden…it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said.    

She didn’t have time to mourn with the birth of a new grandchild, family illness, and new responsibilities. 

“The Zumba instructors that I had become friendly with wrapped their arms around me and came to my house and helped me pack up,” she said. “They helped me find a place to live in… I couldn’t have survived.”

They also encouraged her to give Zumba instruction a try and become a certified Zumba instructor. She took the grueling all-day training and eventually found a job as a Zumba Gold teacher at the Independent Health YMCA in Amherst. Kaminsky accomplished all of this at the spruce age of 78.  

Credit Sandy White / WBFO

“Loretta is truly and inspiration for all of us who are older women,” one of her students said. “Just look at her and how beautiful she is. This is due to the fact that she keeps her body always in motion. A body in motion stays in motion!”

Early classes were small but eventually caught fire and now she has 60 loyal students and counting. 

“Her music for one thing, her personality for another…she’s a wonderful person,” added another student.

Kaminsky has a mind for business that goes beyond chocolate covered popcorn. A national small business advocate, she kick started and developed the Canisius College Women’s Center and helped bolster the Amherst Chamber of Commerce. She describes herself as a confident woman who has a marketing mind, likes trying new challenges, and helping others like senior Dianne Palmer.

“I have low vision. I have been here 17 months and Loretta and her program have been a joy in my life, have brought a joy to my life,” said Palmer.  

Kaminsky just returned from a Holland America Cruise where she was booked to teach Zumba for their senior cruises and sell her own DVDs on the ships.  

“I’ve been getting emails daily. 'When is your DVD coming?' My husband, my wife… want to keep dancing with you,” said Kaminsky. “We’ve going be a DVD and we’re going to be selling it everywhere.” 

And there’s more.

Loretta Kaminsky is in love. She said she has found her soulmate - a younger boyfriend. More about a second chance at love after losing your spouse in Part 2 of this story. 

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.
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