Uniting Caroona Kalina aged care home's Red Hot Mummas
Uniting Caroona Kalina aged care home's Red Hot Mummas

From Lismore mayor to 'red hot mumma'

PEOPLE must have thought Jenny Dowell was "crazy" as she ran along the streets in the early morning with cans of Jack Daniels in her hands.

But they might not have been quite so surprised had they known the reason.

As was the case when she was mayor of Lismore, her actions were all about service to others.

It turns out the bottom of an aluminium can makes for a great tap shoe - and tap shoes were what the Red Hot Mummas at Uniting Caroona Kalina needed for their afternoon dancing session.

"You cut out the bottom of the cans, hammer the base and attach it to slippers with a Velcro dot and it works brilliantly," Mrs Dowell said. "It makes a really great noise on a hard surface. I've got a great stash of them. If one loses its sticky, you can easily replace it."

When Mrs Dowell, while mayor, learned her tap routine for the Stars of Lismore Dance for Cancer, little did she know her new-found expertise would stand her in good stead in retirement.

Or, for that matter, she would one day call herself a Red Hot Mumma.

Mrs Dowell started volunteering with the dance group, made up of residents at Uniting Caroona Kalina aged care, in 2017.

"The group started with me making them afternoon tea," she said. "Most in the group suffer from advanced dementia, so we would spend time talking about childhoods and shared some laughs while recalling songs of the 1930s and '40s."

Kay Cleverly, lifestyle co-ordinator at Uniting Caroona Kalina, said it soon became obvious some of the women had danced when they were younger and when the music started, their feet moved, too.

The Red Hot Mummas was born.

"The group now really look forward to their Tuesday sessions each week," Ms Cleverly said.

Mrs Dowell said she first became involved with Caroona when she visited as mayor during official functions.

"I ... told them when I retired I would like to come and do some volunteering. So in February of last year I just rocked up and they welcomed me with open arms," she said.

"Kay then asked me about the tap dancing I did for the Cancer Council. A couple in the group had obviously been singers and dancers, even though they couldn't remember much.

"But there is something magical about music and dancing - it triggers memories. We'd give them a verse and they'd seem to know all the words from their youth."

Over the months, the Red Hot Mummas were given proper tap shoes, some ostrich-feathered fans and then the auxiliary funded new red tops.

Their repertoire now extends to about 10 songs and the group has held three concerts.

While, sadly, two members have passed away and another is no longer well enough to take part, the group has welcomed new members in recent times, including two honorary male Mummas, and a daughter who uses the group as a special time to visit, sharing the fun of the afternoon.

"The group all care for each other and have become close, sharing their joys as well as their down times,' Ms Cleverly said. "We bring great joy to others when we perform for an audience - we call it our flash mob."