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Beyond fun and friendship: the Red Hat Society as a coping resource for older women



How older women cope with challenges and losses in later life influences not only their physical health but also their psychological wellbeing and quality of life. The purpose of the analysis reported in this paper was to understand how participation in a women's leisure-based social group – the Red Hat Society® – serves as a coping resource for older women. The Society is an international organisation of women aged 50 or more years and has the mission to ‘celebrate the silliness of life’. The Society currently has an estimated one million members in 30 countries. To understand the ways that social group participation may contribute to older women's health and wellbeing, this paper examines the dynamics of leisure-based coping with positive emotions as the focus. Based on an analysis of responses to an open-ended question about meaningful experiences associated with being involved in the Red Hat Society, the sample of 272 members identified the main reasons for their involvement as chronic and acute stressors, challenging life transitions and daily hassles. In addition, they described four ways that participation helped them to manage these stressors: as a context for social support, emotional regulation, sustaining coping efforts, and meaning-focused coping. The results are discussed in relation to theory and previous evidence on the role of positive emotions and leisure in coping.


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Address for correspondence: Susan Hutchinson, 6230 South Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5, Canada E-mail:


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