Red Rascals up for colourful mischief

The Red Rascals group of Rangiora in full voice on an outing in Papanui. The Red Hat Society is a worldwide organisation.
The Red Rascals group of Rangiora in full voice on an outing in Papanui. The Red Hat Society is a worldwide organisation.

In Rangiora the motto of the middle-aged is "growing old disgracefully", at least it is for the members of "The Red Rascals".

The group is part of the Red Hat Society, a world-wide organisation aimed at women over 50. The society was started by a group of women who thought, "crikey how are we going to get through the rest of our lives?" said Coralie Fogen, the Rangiora group's founder.

The Rangiora chapter came into being in 2008, after Fogen, 76, heard about the society through a friend. Since she started the group that makes Foden "the Queen", although it really only means she is the point of contact.

The ladies meet once a month, resplendent in red hats and purple outfits, and head out for lunch and activities including scouring op shops.

"We're very, very keen on lots of bling," said fellow rascal Rae Loffhagen, 73.

Loffhagen joined the group at the outset.

"We just share stories of life. And we share recipes and secrets. It's just so good, because really you're there to prop each other up."

The attire comes from a Jenny Johnson poem: "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me." The line inspired Californian artist Sue Ellen Cooper to start the society in 1998 and there are now more than 40,000 chapters worldwide.

Foden has been retired since she was 65 and says the group helps keep her in touch with others.

"I went to Christchurch every day to work and so I would not really have had the same companionship out here."

Wherever they go, the women garner lots of attention - including honks and hollers from young men.

"We laugh at these young men that drive past. One day going past St Bedes [school] all these young men were waving at us," Foden said.

"I think some of these young people don't believe old people can have fun."

"We're traffic stoppers," agrees Loffhagen. "It's amazing how many people take our photo."

Fogen is cagey on what makes the group "a little bit naughty".

"Mainly when we do outrageous things it's at one of our homes, not in public."

She does, however, have a red garter that she is "not afraid of flashing".

"I'm the Queen, I'm allowed to have a red garter."

Fashion is definitely important to the women. Foden and Loffhagen talk about their red summer hats, in hibernation over winter and replaced with something more practical - but just as red.

The Press