Seniors Can ‘Shore’ Have Fun During the Summer

We don’t “go to the beach.” We go down the shore. And seniors find ways to spend their time under the boardwalk as much as anyone.

One of the summertime perks of living in Philadelphia is that during the hot vacation months, we can easily take day and weekend trips to New Jersey for one of the best things the state has to offer: the sand and the ocean.
Don’t be mistaken, though — we don’t “go to the beach.” We go down the shore.
And seniors find ways to spend their time under the boardwalk as much as anyone.
Many times, people will seek out second homes in the beachier parts of the state — Margate, Avalon, Cape May, the list goes on. And as June inches closer, so too does the appeal of walking on the boardwalk, enjoying the cool ocean breeze, indulging in an overflowing tub of Johnson’s caramel popcorn or salt water taffy or some Polish water ice. … Is anyone else hungry?
For senior adults, this time could be a perfect one to spend on the beach with grandchildren or gamble in Atlantic City.
Even if gambling isn’t your scene, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the warm weather.
Rose Valentine, 75, has lived on Long Beach Island, N.J. for 15 years after she and her husband decided to live there permanently following his retirement, though they split their time between LBI and South Carolina.
She is a past president of the Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island and does public relations for the organization, though she is quick to point out, “this isn’t your normal JCC.”
“We’re a full-year synagogue,” she clarified. “But most of the people — 70 percent of the people — are not there during the winter.”
The synagogue offers programs and events targeted for the whole congregation, but older adults do tend to gravitate toward certain programs, she said. They have mah jongg nights and movie nights and Zumba classes, which many senior adults enjoy.
Living in a place where many people do not stay for the full year is challenging, Valentine said. Having the JCC and synagogue there has helped her create a life for herself and her family.
“When you live in an area where people aren’t there all year,” she said, “I think most people need some kind of an anchor or place where they belong. Most of us did not raise our children there; it’s not where we spent our adult life. So you need to find a place where you can find friendship, activities and a sense of belonging — I could not really live there if the JCC was not there.”
She grew up originally on Long Island, N.Y. and went to the beach “every day” as she put it. Later, she moved to Livingston, N.J. and started renting a house on LBI for 25 years. Her children came with her, and they would spend time there in the summer.
Eventually, she and her husband bought a house and their son followed suit, so now it has a special meaning for her whole family.
“It’s our place,” she said.
Her grandchildren love coming to the beach and spending time in LBI. They’re “beach bums,” Valentine said with a laugh.
Two of her younger grandchildren, who are 7 and 8, love to come and stay with them, and Valentine enjoys taking them to the JCC for different activities, such as the movie nights.
The environment of LBI is good for seniors and for families, she said, because it’s quieter than say, Atlantic City, with its bright lights and busy lifestyle.
“It’s really about family,” she said. “Being together without the distractions of normal life and being together and going to the beach — getting away from the other things.”
One of her favorite things to do is ride her bike on the boardwalk and go to the beach with her grandchildren. Being a grandparent is what many seniors in the area focus their time on during the summer, she said.
But they come together through activities the JCC offers, such as Shabbat on the Beach. The synagogue is holding three of these this year, she said, rather than the usual two because it’s so popular.
“We get about 150 or so people to come on the beach and do a Kabbalat Shabbat and people go out to dinner together,” Valentine said. “People bring their children; I bring my grandchildren. It becomes a three-generation thing — it’s quite lovely.”
Further up the coastline, many Jews congregate to other beach towns, such as Ventnor, Margate and Longport.
Only a 10-minute drive each way from the casinos in Atlantic City and the bustling boardwalk of Ocean City, Margate tends to draw a larger Jewish crowd than the other towns. But it offers plenty of activities for seniors in all of Atlantic County.
And like what Valentine notices in LBI, many families tend to flock to these towns for just a few months during the summer as well.
Josh Cutler, programs director of the Jewish Community Center of Margate, said the population grows rapidly from late April/ early May through October, as residents spend time at their second homes in Margate, Ventnor or Longport.
The JCC offers many programs specifically geared for seniors, from summer mah jongg courses to dinner-and-a-movie events, which usually show recent movies. The one coming up in June will play Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence, for example.
They also have done brunch and learn programs throughout the year, which just wrapped up, said Cutler, who has been with the JCC for 12 years. Shabbat services by the ocean are another popular event, he added.
The community lends itself to many opportunities for seniors to enjoy themselves and the beachy environment, he said, noting the proximity to Atlantic and Ocean cities.
“It itself is a wonderful community and pleasant and beautiful,” he said of Margate, which also features many restaurants and shops that get crowded during the summer. “But you [also] have these two options in 10 minutes in either direction.”
Atlantic City was always a hot spot for Jews in the summer. Walking through any casino — though, perhaps, now they may be less crowded than they used to be — people of any age could be seen sitting at the slots taking a gamble on their luck.
On the other end, Ocean City — a dry town — offers a busy boardwalk scene, lined with stores and eateries (Manco and Manco’s pizza, anyone?) and offers amusements and a water park perfect for the grandchildren.
Both are easy for seniors to get to by taking a jitney or other form of public transportation, he said, which is another bonus.
Cutler’s favorite part of the season is the “bookends,” the beginning and the end of the season when it quiets down. But he also loves the thick of the summer as he also runs the JCC’s day camp, which many kids go to while staying with their grandparents at the shore.
For seniors — or active adults, as he called them — the JCC provides an added sense of community.
“We have a fantastic facility, fantastic programming and it gets them out of the house. It gives them a place to go and convene, and gives them something to do,” he said. “It adds a social component to their summer.”
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