Despite the sweltering conditions outside, spirits inside the Rochdale Village and Allen Community senior centers remained high last Friday.
As temperatures rose into the mid-90s, cooling centers became essential. Although seniors in the two developments have access to air conditioning in their apartments, cooling centers offer a social gathering spot out of the oppressive heat.
“We like the friendship of each other and that means a lot,” Gloria Williams, a resident of Rochdale Village, said. “We’re cool with each other and that cools things down a bit, too.”
Social hour was the cooling method of choice for the ladies of Rochdale Village. Williams, Lucille Mitchell, Cathy Johnson, Mary Broadnax and a fifth who asked to remain unidentified had just finished lunch inside the senior center cafeteria when they decided to hang around after everyone else had left, keeping cool while also keeping each other company.
“We’re just talking,” Mitchell said.
“Don’t ask them what they were talking about!” Rochdale Village senior center director Shereé Shivers chimed in.
When they aren’t gossiping, the ladies of Rochdale have each other’s backs. They say they rely on one another, especially in times of extreme weather conditions, for comfort and safety.
“We learn to interact with each other to help supply our needs,” Williams said. “If she needs something and I’m going over there to get something, I’ll get something for her, too.”
Up Guy R. Brewer Boulevard, the Allen Community Senior Center was abuzz with a game of bingo. Citing the comfort of the conditioned air and the entertainment options, Sandra Boyd and Ramona McNeal had remained seated at their table all day long.
“We played dominos, Pokeno, bingo,” Boyd said. “I live to come here. I enjoy it every day.”
“We are having fun, fun, fun!” McNeal added.
Albeit comfortable, staring at the decorated gray walls of the Allen cafeteria all day was too much for some. Beverly White and Millicent Taylor made their way out to the courtyard, taking advantage of what little shade they could find for a park bench picnic.
“If we get kind of bored, we come out and sit down,” Taylor said. “If it gets too hot out here, we’ll go right back inside.”
Keeping the seniors safe and occupied, in that order, are the priorities of program coordinator Shakira Toomer. She said the senior center has already hosted a health fair this month, and has another one planned for early August.
In conditions of extreme heat, it’s the job of the senior center’s office to make sure water is available to all residents of the community, both by bottle and by fountain.
“We just have to keep the seniors comfortable,” she said. “In every room we make sure it’s air conditioned, and if there’s anybody whose air conditioner is not working, we have to get it serviced as soon as possible.”
“We don’t want anyone to have a heat stroke or be super uncomfortable,” she added. “This is a place for them to come every day to enjoy themselves and they have to be comfortable at all times.”