Debra Granich and The Red Hat Society Make Aging Fun

When the topic of aging parents pops up, many people immediately shift the conversation to healthcare, senior living communities or dementia.  And that’s fair, because many people don’t often think of these things until it’s crashing down upon them.

So when I met Debra Granich, the president and CEO of the Red Hat Society, I was delighted at such a refreshing experience.  Without stealing Debra’s thunder in the interview, the Red Hat Society (or Red Hatters) approaches aging with an eye toward support and a requirement for fun.  For many of you who’ve heard me speak, you know that I am a huge believer in the power of friendships and socialization to keep the body and mind youthful.  The Red Hatters have institutionalized this attitude across its very large membership and are realizing incredible results.

In this Leaders in Elder Care podcast, Debra shares the mission behind the Red Hat Society and some news that should make every senior lady and her family excited.  Enjoy!

How does Debra Granich describe the Red Hat Society? Keep reading.

Who We Are:

  • A global society of women approaching the age of 50 and beyond that connects and supports each other in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom and fulfillment. By maintaining a thriving social networking community and offering a variety of services and group experiences, the Red Hat Society revitalizes its members, helping them attain renewed confidence, pride and enthusiasm for life.
  • RHS members wear full regalia that includes distinctive red hats and purple outfits if you are 50 or older, pink hats and lavender outfits if you are under 50.
  • Our mission is to connect like-minded women around the world and to encourage them to have fun together. We are a vivacious society of women who celebrate life. Along the way, we develop strong bonds and caring friendships–at the same time raising the respect and visibility of women who are entering their next stage in life.

How It Started:

  • It began with a simple gift. Sue Ellen Cooper gave a dear friend a copy of a poem encouraging women to don a red hat and purple outfit in the face of getting older. She also gave the friend a bright red fedora to celebrate the friend’s 55th birthday in November 1997.
  • The Red Hat Society officially formed April 25, 1998 when Sue Ellen Cooper and a group of five friends, known as The Founding Chapter of Fullerton, California, dressed in purple clothing and red hats and met for afternoon tea.
  • Word quickly spread of these outings after a story appeared in Romantic Homes in July 2000. Since then, hundreds of articles have been published in regional newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Women’s Day.
  • Sue Ellen Cooper never set out to ignite an international phenomenon. She simply wanted to share her light-hearted attitude toward aging with a few girlfriends. In response to national news coverage, the Red Hat Society exploded.


  • Approximately 30,000 chapters exist in all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 25 foreign countries.
  • It is estimated that each chapter averages 20-25 members.
  • The Red Hat Society is made up of a diverse network of women including working women and retirees, grandmothers, golfers, attorneys, teachers, Olympians and entertainers.
  • The Red Hat Society has licensing agreements with a dozen companies to produce quality merchandise available through the Red Hat Society Store and select retail stores throughout the United States. Product is identifiable by a tag bearing the official Red Hat Society logo.

Fun Facts:

  • 2008 is the Red Hat Society’s 10th birthday, which will be celebrated all year long with 4 conventions, 2 cruises, 2 outrageous birthday parties, a parade in London and many more surprises.
  • Exalted Queen Mother Sue Ellen Cooper reaches more than 125,000 Red Hatters each week through the Friday Broadcast, a personal e-mail updating members with news from Hatquarters and escapades of Red Hat Society members around the world.
  • Sue Ellen Cooper also sends a personal monthly broadcast to all Queens entitled Queen To Queen. This is a communique for all queens to share ideas and plans and to ask questions.
  • HATS! The Musical premiered Oct. 11, 2006 at The New Denver Civic Theatre and has since launched in its fifth market.
  • Red Hat Society Day is celebrated April 25th by official chapters worldwide.

About Debra Granich

In her role as chief executive officer for The Red Hat Society, Inc., Debra Granich has been instrumental in leading and building the organization’s international business operations, including membership, product, events, entertainment, travel and more. During her seven-year tenure, The RHS, Inc. has grown into a leading international women’s social organization with more than 30,000 chapters.

Previously, Debra held senior management positions for national retail store Contempo Casuals, then part of the Neiman Marcus Group. She subsequently transitioned to RHS from the Walt Disney Company where she held human resources leadership roles in Consumer Products and Theme Parks divisions. Among her responsibilities was the Disneyland Resort expansion project leading to the successful launch of an additional theme park, hotel and downtown shopping area.

Passionate about women’s health, education and social issues, Debra believes in living the values and mission of the Red Hat Society. An avid traveler, she is committed to changing the traditional notion of aging worldwide.

Debra earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton and continues to be active in many social and business groups associated with her alma mater. Debra and her husband Boris have been married for more than 27 years and together they have two sons in college.

Contacting the Red Hat Society

The Red Hat Society can be reached online or by phone at:

1-866-FUN-AT50 (866-386-2850); or