In Greek, the name Zoë means “life.” And it couldn’t be more fitting for Zoë Kennedy, who credits Senior Planet with saving hers.
Last year, the 75-year-old Senior Planet member was recovering at home from a heart ablation (a cardiac catheter procedure used to correct heart rhythm problems) when she was suddenly paralyzed by pain in her groin and couldn’t reach the phone or the door. Luckily, she was able to reach her iPad and send an email to her daughter in Los Angeles, who contacted the manager of her building for help.
“The iPad saved my life,” says Zoë. Not long before, she had joined Senior Planet to learn how to send an email and use Facebook messenger on the device. “If it wasn’t for Senior Planet, I wouldn’t have known what to do.”
Zoë’s feeling a bit better these days. She just had a heart monitor removed and now this lifelong dancer is teaching a belly dancing class at the Senior Planet Exploration Center at 127 W. 25th Street in Manhattan. This follows a career of some twenty years as a professional dancer, teacher, and choreographer. She has taught in health clubs, senior centers, park and recreation programs, cruise ships, high schools, and junior colleges both locally and internationally. She sat down with us recently and shared her story — including details about her new beau…whom she met after the technology volunteers at Senior Planet had taught her a thing or two about online dating.
Senior Planet: We’re so happy for you and your new relationship.
This guy is nice! He’s an amazing gentleman. Handsome! Good looking! We went on a cruise together.
Senior Planet: Tell us how you got into belly dancing.
My parents were very strict. We weren’t allowed to go out. No smoking. No drinking. No dancing. When I was in high school, I used to sneak out of the house and dance. I always wanted to belly dance. It started because my sister used to always dress me up at parties. Then, I saw an ad at Bronx Community College and I joined a class. Before I knew it, I was in a professional class. Then I was in a dance group. You just keep learning. Then you get sent to do parties and do shows.
Senior Planet: What can people expect from one of your classes?
The real deal. Class starts with a warm-up, followed by basic instruction of body isolations and techniques used in Middle Eastern belly dancing. We use authentic music from the Middle East and North Africa. I met my late husband in Egypt. I have traveled extensively and spent time developing my art in the Middle East, South America, and across the U.S. So this is the real deal. I even make my own costumes.
Senior Planet: Can anyone register?
I encourage people of all body types to join. Women and men.
Senior Planet: You went to beauty school. How did that come about?
I did it so I could wear make-up! And learn about make-up, and learn about nails, and learn about skin. I would do my mom’s hair and my sister’s hair. I even had a little business then. When I was 14, I used to walk down Second Avenue, go into stores and tell the owners, ‘You need a manicure. Go sit in the back and I’ll give you a manicure because your nails look terrible. Don’t go to a salon; you’re busy working.’ They would say, ‘See you next week!’ And then I would go to the salon and I would say, ‘You want me to do the shampoos?’
Senior Planet: How much did you get for that?
$5, plus tips.
Senior Planet: Sixty years ago? You were a young entrepreneur!
I always made a little extra money. I was ahead of the game. I was going to school and working. It kept me out of trouble. I met a lot of different people. Plus, my mom would have kicked me out of the house if I didn’t have a job.
Senior Planet: What does aging with attitude mean to you?
Aging with attitude means you still feel young inside of you. You still have it. As long as you can still do it for yourself, bless you. Keep moving. Be on top of all your medical issues, and look good no matter what. Oh, and condition your hair as much as possible.
Photo: Archival professional photo supplied by Zoë M. Kennedy.