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Graying of Lake Oswego: Business community given advice

by: Cliff Newell, Speaker Brenda Suteu and Lake Oswego Business Alliance chair Bob Tanner visit during Tuesday’s presentation.

Brenda Suteu says that if Lake Oswego businesses are friendly to senior citizens, Lake Oswego senior citizens will be friendly to them.

This simply makes good business sense, as Suteu outlined her talk titled, 'The Graying of Lake Oswego' before the Lake Oswego Business Alliance Tuesday.

The former executive director of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, Suteu has always been highly disposed in favor of elder citizens, personally and professionally. And one of the things she has learned is that this city is getting older.

'Lake Oswego's population is aging,' Suteu said. 'Forty-two percent of the people are over the age of 45, and of that, 24 percent are 55 and over.'

She added, 'The year before I arrived (as LOACC director in 2005) the requests for social services increased 90 percent, and it continued to increase each year.'

She also made another discovery.

'I'm aging,' Suteu said.

This being the case, Suteu urged the LOBA members to be more sensitive to senior citizens - and to all of the people rapidly joining their ranks.

Through the center's 50-Plus Dialogues, Suteu believes she gained a strong grasp on what is most desired by the senior citizens of this community.

'These weren't surveys where you filled in the blanks,' Suteu said. 'They were conversations, sort of like a fireside chat.'

The main concerns of local elders are: (1) Maintaining independence; (2) Connected and intergenerational community; (3) Life planning and meaningful service; (4) Health and wellness.

Of attaining such knowledge, Suteu said, 'I wanted to understand my customer,' and her expertise was put to good use in the wake of an incident at The Pearl at Kruse Way, in which an elderly woman suffering from dementia was injured in an attempt to control one of her outbursts. The Lake Oswego Police Department asked Suteu to give its officers seminars on the problems of aging.

'I gave eight in-service presentations over the next few weeks,' Suteu said. 'I gave an overview on what elders think and what they expect. They have a heavy burden of losses.'

These losses include health, friends and family, mobility, mental sharpness and physical appearance.

To the question, 'How will the graying of Lake Oswego affect your business?,' Suteu's answer was 'give impeccable customer service, understand your customers and adjust to what they want. Be willing to go the extra mile with them.'

If businesses do this, Suteu promised they will receive tremendous loyalty from their senior citizen customers in return.

Suteu said, 'Too often we don't think about aging until we run into a crisis.'

Suteu's points were well taken by LOBA chairman Bob Tanner.

'This is the first time we've really looked at this issue,' Tanner said, 'but our audience today was very keen about Brenda's presentation. We have a lot of storefront businesses here who can benefit from what she had to say.'

A veteran of 45 years as a businessman, Tanner noted that focusing on such topics is a major objective for LOBA.

'Where entrepreneurs get stuck, we want to conquer the parts of their business that they don't understand,' he said.

To find out more about the Lake Oswego Business Alliance, go to its Web site at www.lo-ba.com . The group meets monthly at the Holy Names Heritage Center on the campus of Mary's Woods.