BRIGANTINE — Young at Heart may best be recognized as the name of one of many million-selling singles by Frank Sinatra, and later a mid-1950s movie the famed Garden Stater starred in with Doris Day.

In Brigantine, Young at Heart is the name of a club that puts stock in the theory that active lifestyles lead to longer, happier and healthier lives.

The seniors club meets 1 p.m. Friday, March 9, at the Community Center, 265 42nd St. Anyone 60 or older can join for a $10-per-year membership fee. Currently there are 32 members, and more are always welcome. Usually the club meets the first Friday of each month but the March meeting was postponed a week due to a storm.

The Young at Heart club has been around for at least three decades — or half as long as it takes to qualify as a member. It provides members with options for having fun and staying socially active and helps keep them educated with occasional guest speakers from the health care field during monthly meetings. It also raises money for noble causes, most notably St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

“During the meetings we talk about different ways we might make money, and at the end of the year we make a donation to St. Jude's,” said Young at Heart President Fran Vanzin, a 48-year Brigantine resident originally from Pittsburgh. “Occasionally we'll bring in someone to speak at our meetings on issues like independent living, eating right, exercise and proper nutrition, things like that.”

Some of the Young at Heart members attend a regular health-and-wellness class called Senior Lite, taught by instructor Lugene Polzella four times per week at the Community Center. Hourlong classes start noon and 1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday and are free to all Brigantine residents 60 and older. Nonresident seniors pay $25, which includes 16 sessions.

Polzella begins and ends each session with stretching exercises, then gets into a light cardiovascular workout that keeps time with an upbeat soundtrack of songs such as “Sea Cruise,” “At The Hop,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Rockin' Robin” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.” The sessions also include light weight training while seated.

“Activity like this is very important for seniors because your muscles can atrophy through lack of use, lack of movement,” Polzella said. “I've had some of my students come up to me and tell me that they've been able to come off medications for things like high cholesterol through doing cardio exercise and strength training. It's so helpful for improving circulation, flexibility and overall health.”

Young at Heart members go out about four times per year on luncheons, and in December enjoy a holiday gathering at the Tuckahoe Inn. There is also the occasional casino bus trip to see shows or gamble, and from 9:30 a.m. to noon each Tuesday and Thursday, a spin-off group called the Sunshine Club plays bingo at the Community Center at 5 cents per card. Bingo is also a favorite game of chance for the Young at Hearts after their monthly meetings.

In April, the Young at Heart club will host its annual pancake-and-sausage breakfast fundraiser at the Community Center. There is also an April luncheon planned at the Crab Trap in Somers Point.

One of the Young at Heart club's best-known members is Philomena Arena, who relocated to Brigantine from Philadelphia in 1949. Through Young at Heart and her affiliations with the Brigantine Lions Club, Catholic Daughters of America and other charitable groups, Arena has championed local fundraising efforts for the South Jersey Cancer Fund for many years. In September 2017, she turned 100 years old.

“She belongs to everything and never sits still,” Vanzin said. “She's always out doing something. She wears me out.”

Young at Heart members Leah Gallo and Julia Barry were enjoying lunch on a recent Monday at the Community Center.

“It's a lot of fun and gives us something to do,” Gallo said of the club. “It gets us out of the house and keeps us active.”

The two joined Young at Heart around the same time. 

“I think it was four or five years ago, maybe more,” said Gallo. “I can't recall. Time flies when you're having fun.” 

For more information about the Young at Heart club, call 609-266-4364. Visit the Brigantine Community Center at 265 42nd St. to learn more about senior programming, or call 609-264-7350.

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