They are women over 40 who proudly wear their ages on their backs — literally — like a badge of honor.

They are on a mission to rekindle childhood memories, improve their mental and physical health, and send a message that age is just a number.

They are the more than 8,000 members around the country who are part of the 40+ Double Dutch Club — all ages and races, in cities and suburbs, and promoting what they call the 4Fs: friendship, fitness, fun, and fellowship.

“It’s the nostalgic feel of it,” said Vernell Prince, 49, captain of the South Jersey club. “We didn’t realize how happy we were back then. We just had fun.”

About 30 members gathered on Saturday morning at Frank Donio Memorial Park in Winslow Township for their monthly meetup. After stretching, the women spread out on the asphalt parking lot and jumped rope for an hour, with old-school hip-hop music blaring.

They took turns artfully turning the long double rope lines, a skill in and of itself. As two women turned the ropes in eggbeater fashion, a jumper carefully timed her entry into the spinning ropes. Sometimes several women jumped simultaneously. If they missed, they tried again, with encouragement from the others. In between jumps, some women slipped colorful Hula-Hoops over their hips and moved to the music.

“Growing up, double Dutch was my thing,” said Romelia Villegas, 52, of Camden, a newcomer. “I’m so happy it’s back. This is wonderful.”

The club is open to women 40 and older (the oldest member in the South Jersey group is 77) with simple requirements: You must purchase a T-shirt each year with your name and age. There are no dues or formal meetings. Children, spouses, and pets are not allowed.

“We get to be kids again and have fun,” said co-captain Kamise Thompson, 56, of Sicklerville. “We just come here and relive memories of when we didn’t have bills.”

The women also perform community service, donating backpacks and conducting training camps at schools. They performed at a football team event at the Deptford Mall recently and at the state NAACP convention in Atlantic City and the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington.

“It’s not just double jumping,” said Thompson.

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Although Prince and others began jumping as children, the group proudly boasts it can teach anyone to double Dutch, including Lisa Kirkpatrick, 62, of Mount Laurel, a sales manager who admitted she almost chickened out after signing up a few months ago.

Kirkpatrick said the group brought her out of her comfort zone, patiently teaching her how to navigate the ropes. They instructed her to stand in the middle and jump in place as they turned the ropes around her. Eventually, she learned how to jump in.

“I chose to do something just for me. I love it,” Kirkpatrick said. “I’m not going to give up.”

After jumping rope for an hour, the women performed line dances, including an African hopscotch, a synchronized routine where they jumped in squares. Some members shook sparkly pom-poms as they moved to their theme song, “Double Dutch Bus.”

Then they formed a circle for a prayer, the end of the weekly 90-minute meetup.

“We’re empowering women. Just because you get older, it doesn’t mean you have to stop being active,” said Iesha Jackson, 44, captain of the Philadelphia club. “We are proud of our ages.”

The same meetup format is followed by clubs around the country. At South Jersey’s most recent get-together, several club members from Philadelphia showed up and easily joined the routines. Prince, a conflict analyst at a law firm who began jumping as a child in North Philadelphia, said she attends meetups when she travels on vacation to other states.

“I started for the double Dutch,” said Amy Skipper, 46, of Sharon Hill, captain of a Delaware County club with about 60 members. “Now, I come for the sisterhood.”

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According to the National Double Dutch League, Dutch settlers brought the game to then-New Amsterdam, and when the English arrived and saw the children skipping rope, they called it double Dutch. Its popularity grew over the years, especially in urban areas. Two New York City police officers turned it into a competitive team sport and held the first double Dutch tournament in 1974 with hundreds of elementary school children.

The 40+ double Dutch movement was started by Pamela Robinson in Chicago in 2016. After going through a rough time, she was looking for a way to lift her spirits. She reached out to a close friend and said, “Let’s jump rope like we did when we were kids.”

The two began jumping in her neighborhood. They were soon joined by a few church friends and it spread across the country. Today, the club is in 30 states with more than 100 chapters, or sub-clubs, including Philadelphia, Delaware County, and Newark, Del. There are chapters abroad in Israel, Canada, and Germany. The oldest member is 89, Robinson said.

“It has definitely changed my life,” said Robinson, 52. “I feel like we’re all doing God’s work of spreading love to women everywhere.”

Tamika Elie, 49, of Turnersville, said she joined the group in July after her therapist recommended jumping to help with a bout with depression. There are health and wellness tips posted on the group’s blogs. Some members have overcome serious health challenges and lost weight.

“They’re for you, no matter what,” said Elie, an account rep. “It brought me back to life.”

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