Pamela Robinson loved jumping double Dutch as a child, but as an adult, Ms. Robinson, a stay-at-home mom, indulged only occasionally, at family parties. Until a Memorial Day cookout in 2016, when she found herself at a neighbor’s house in a Chicago suburb, moving effortlessly between the swiveling ropes.
It was a respite for Ms. Robinson, who was 45 at the time. Her 20-year marriage was ending, she was dealing with depression and her three children were no longer as dependent on her as they once were.
Ms. Robinson found a little joy that day, and she didn’t want to let it go. So she asked Catrina Dyer-Taylor, a close friend who lived nearby, if they could “start playing outside, jumping double Dutch again, like we did back in the day when we were kids.”
She had a name for their group: 40+ Double Dutch Club — a nod to their ages. And she had another request for her co-founder, Mrs. Dyer-Taylor: No men or children allowed.
“She knew everything that I was going through at the time,” Ms. Robinson, now 52, recalled. And as she remembers it, Mrs. Dyer-Taylor, now 48, replied, “‘If that’s what you need to do — you think that’s going to help you get through this — then let’s do it.’”
Five women, a mix of friends from Ms. Robinson’s church and her neighbors in Homewood, Ill., showed up in front of the local high school for the inaugural meeting. Today, the 40+ Double Dutch Club has more than 10,000 active members and a Facebook group with 56,000 people. Members, ranging in age from 40 to over 80, are scattered across the United States and abroad, including Canada, Germany and Israel. More than 100 chapters, called sub clubs, meet at least once a week to play.
And on a Saturday morning in July, over 600 women were in Chicago for the group’s third National Play Date, an annual weekend filled with activities like double Dutch, hopscotch, hula-hooping and old-school hand games.
A community health center parking lot was transformed into a playground, complete with a retro candy stand, a taco truck and a backdrop for photos. Attendees blew whistles and waved pompoms as DJ Goldie Lox, 50 — a club member since 2019 — spun everything from Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” to “Follow Me” by Aly-Us (and, of course, Frankie Smith’s “Double Dutch Bus”).
Enthusiastic members, their names and ages proudly displayed on the backs of their shirts, arrived with one main goal: to play together.
For many club members, the group provides a valuable support system. “To have all of these sisters now, I would have never dreamt it, to be honest,” said Linda Latson, 52, an Orlando, Fla., sub club captain and a three-time National Play Date attendee.
As the club grew, Ms. Robinson and Mrs. Dyer-Taylor created a philanthropic arm of the organization called Beyond the Ropes that provides for women in the group who are facing hard times. They also give funding to churches, prisons and other organizations.
But even for members who aren’t facing major life transitions, the club gives them permission to have fun and take time away from responsibilities — if only for a couple of hours.
“A lot of women over 40 spend so much time taking care of everybody else,” Ms. Robinson said. “We are worried about our careers. We are just always focusing on other things other than ourselves.”
Several members noted that their health had changed for the better. They have lost weight, gotten more mobile, increased their cardio and have noticed that they feel better overall.
These health boosts are not surprising. Jumping rope, which is a full-body workout, is an effective form of cardio. Research suggests that a 10-minute jumping session is equivalent to a 30-minute run. Plus, it improves overall strength, agility, balance and coordination.
“It’s hard to explain if you’re not in it,” Mrs. Dyer-Taylor said. “But once you see it, you will be able to understand and feel the love that we have for one another.”
Rozalynn S. Frazier, is an award-winning journalist living in New York City. Her work appears in SELF, Shape, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, Real Simple, Oprah Daily and other outlets.