Around 500 women ages 40 and above met over the weekend in Chicago to have some fun while reliving childhood memories at the same time: by jumping double Dutch.
It was part of a meetup of the 40+ Double Dutch Club, which started in Chicago and has now branched out across the country.
Fifty-year-old Pamela Robinson founded the club, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.
She learned to jump rope while in elementary school. “When I was growing up in the 1970s, everybody jumped rope. And that’s all we did all summer long in the Chicago area,” Robinson says.
For her, jumping rope represents happiness and freedom.
“In 2016, I was going through a lot of issues in my personal life, and I needed to find a happy place,” she says. “I remembered how freeing it is to jump double Dutch and how it takes us back to a time before stress, before husbands, kids, bills, before adulting took over.”
At first, she was apprehensive if she’d get support and if any women would join her. Now, there are more than a hundred chapters across the country — and a couple internationally too, in Israel and Canada.
They’d planned a massive, nationwide meetup in 2020, but the pandemic canceled it. They finally gathered this past weekend, outside, in Chicago. It was the first time many of them met in person.
Part of the reason for the popularity and growth may be tied to the connections made in the club. Robinson says it goes well beyond just jumping rope.
“It has turned into somewhat of a ministry for all of the women who are involved. We now have over 20,000 members on our Facebook group page and there are women who have battled depression and who are going through chemotherapy, who have more experience with grief and loss … who are coming out and they are experiencing a joy that they haven’t experienced in a long time.”
“We pray for each other,” she says. “We pray with each other. And we’re not only coming out jumping rope and having fun, we’re building relationships with each other.”
As the name implies, everyone in the club is age 40 and up. The oldest jumper is in her 80s.
For the ladies in the club, age is just a number.
“This is our exercise,” Robinson says, “and it’s helping us to improve our physical, mental and spiritual health.”
Sean Saldana and Kelley Dickens produced and edited the audio version of this story.