With temperatures passing 90 degrees in the Portland metro area this week, many Oregonians are enjoying the sun and finding ways to stay cool. Four cooling centers opened July 1 to keep elders and people with disabilities safe.
For seniors with their pets, however, escaping the heat poses a special challenge.
That’s why the Hollywood Senior Center, at 1820 N.E. 40th Ave., became the only Portland cooling center to allow animals to accompany their owners. The center is open until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 2. The pilot project is a collaboration of the senior center and Multnomah County.
Amber Kern Johnson, executive director of the Hollywood Senior Center, acknowledges that many of the older homes in the area don’t have air conditioning, which puts seniors at high risk for heat-related illnesses. An average of 658 people in the United States die annually from heat-related illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
“As you get older it’s harder to regulate your body temperature,” Kern Johnson says. “So you might not even know that you’re suffering from heat stroke until it’s really serious.”
But many seniors are reluctant to leave their pets behind in a hot house. The senior center provides a meal, opportunities to socialize with peers and activities such as cards games, a nightly movie and books. Organizers hope that by offering a space for animals it will make the center more accessible for seniors who would otherwise stay home and suffer.
The Hollywood Senior Center serves about 200 seniors per day.
“People are very appreciative to have the cooling center,” Kern Johnson says. “They often talk about how hot their apartment is and how miserable they are and how nice it is to come to an air-conditioned environment.”
Ronnie Jackson, 63, came to the cooling center to escape the heat and enjoy a meal.
“The heat bothers you when you’re at this age,” he says. “I wish more people would come. It’s the coolest spot. If you don’t have air conditioning it’s rough. I’m enjoying it and encouraging other people to come in.”
Pets can also suffer heatstroke. Symptoms can include heavy panting, glazed eyes, increased heart rate, breathing difficulties, thirst, lethargy and dizziness. The Oregon Humane Society recommends that you give your pet plenty of water and shade, not over-exercise them in the heat and not to leave them in the car.
For more information on the closest cooling center, call 2-1-1 (211info.org). You must also call the Hollywood Senior Center (503-288-8303) in advance if you wish to reserve a spot for your small pet, which must be in a carrier. Capacity is limited and availability will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
Rules related to pets at the Hollywood Senior Center:
• A spot must be reserved by calling in advance.
• There is a weight restriction of 22 pounds.
• Pets need to arrive in a carrier.
• If the pet needs medications, they must accompany the pet.
• Pets need some sort of identification and proof of current vaccinations.
• Pets will be kept in a separate room where the owners can come and go to visit, but the pets will not be out and about with people (even in their carriers).
• All service animals are always accepted at any cooling center.