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Hey, Baby Boomers — Summer Camp Isn’t Just For Kids Anymore

Hey, baby boomers — summer camp isn’t just for kids anymore

At Camp Meraki, run by Austin-Texas-based organization Aging Is Cool, campers over the age of 60 get to practice archery and do other traditional summer camp activities.

Linda Levy jumped at the opportunity to attend Camp Meraki near Austin, Texas.

As a kid she went to summer camp every year and later she worked as a camp nurse at multiple camps. “That is my happy place,” said the 68-year-old retired nurse who now works in retail.

The program, which was run by Aging Is Cool, an Austin, Texas-based group that organizes social and physical activities for retirees, was like the summer camps she attended as a kid in many ways. There was a set schedule, campers slept in community bunks — although this time with air conditioning — and at meal time “you ate what was in front of you,” Levy said. Along with her husband, Levy participated in everything from canoeing and archery to tie-dyeing t-shirts and making crafts.

Levy’s favorite experiences, though, were the team-building exercises she and her fellow campers participated in. For one, the campers did a show-and-tell, talking about personal mementos and their importance. In another, they were told to stand on a tarp and to figure out a way to flip it over without stepping off it. “One of us was an engineer and he knew exactly how to solve the problem,” Levy said. “There was none of that childhood competition — it was just fun.”

In recent years, the number of camps geared to adults has grown substantially. While there is no specific data regarding camps aimed at people over the age of 50, 25% of the roughly 2,400 camps accredited by the American Camp Association offer adult-only programming. Additionally, 43% of ACA-accredited camps provide family-oriented programming, up from 38% in 2014. (The ACA did not have data from years past regarding adult-only programming.)

The different camps range in price. Camp Meraki’s first session only cost attendees $375, Aging Is Cool co-owner Amy Temperley said, noting that the camps she had studied averaged around $550 for a session. Other camps can be pricier. A six-night stay in the upgraded accommodations at Camp Isabella Freedman, another camp geared for older adults, costs $1,170.

While many of these camps and programs are geared toward adults of all ages, an increasing number focus specifically on older adults. At Camp Bonfire, an adult-only camp located in the Poconos, the average age of attendees is 36, but the program has played host to people in their late 60s and 70s, said Benjamin Camp, the camp’s co-director. “The magic of camp works for 12 year olds and 60 year olds,” he said.

For roughly 12 years, the Lutheran Camping Corporation of Central Pennsylvania has run its “Elder Camp” alongside its summer camp for children at its Nawakwa location roughly 140 miles west of Philadelphia, said Sister Marianne Brock, the organization’s assistant executive director.

The program, which runs for a single week-long session each year, attracts between 15 and 20 adults. This year, the camp will be held July 9-15. “Half of our elder campers were campers here back in the days of black-and-white photographs,”…

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