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ACC staffers stave off crisis times for seniors

The Baby Boomer generation is aging and members will soon assume roles as senior citizens.

The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center wants them to know it's ready for anything.

The center's social service department has a remarkable range of services for what will surely be the largest senior class in American history, and the ACC staff is working steadily to get the message out about what is available.

And also urging senior citizens not to wait.

'We're here for them,' said ACC executive director Brenda Suteu. 'We're looking for ways to get the word out that we're here for the older generations of Lake Oswego. My goal is to get the word out before a crisis hits so they're aware ahead of time.'

Dana Tassos and Berta Derman direct the ACC social services department and they avidly endorse Suteu's position.

'I'm amazed at how many of them are not aware of the services offered here,' said Tassos. 'Often they'll wait until there's a crisis, like suddenly no longer being able to drive a car.'

'We are an aging population in Lake Oswego,' said Derman, the staff's senior member with 17 years at the ACC. 'That becomes more clear every day.'

The senior wave is most perceptible in the center's food service program. All Derman has to do is count up the meals delivered by the center's Meals-on-Wheels program. In February the ACC delivered a record 867 meals. Meanwhile, 425 congregate meals were served at the center itself.

'That's astonishing. We're astonished,' Derman said. 'Dana and I go to meetings every month with senior centers for Clackamas County and Oregon City. They're seeing a decline, and we're at the bursting point. We're always seeking new people to drive routes.'

Suteu noted, 'It's our own, stand-alone program. Our cook makes delicious food that is nutritionally sound, tastes good and looks good.'

Still, the food program is the exception when it comes to perception of the social services offered at the ACC. There is so much more that's downright amazing to hear Derman and Tassos talk about what the ACC can do for elder citizens.

n Support groups for widows, caregivers, and persons suffering from arthritis, hearing loss or vision loss.

n Senior companions who provide conversation, rides, lunch, shopping, and assistance with mail.

n Care and Share, which provides food baskets.

n Van trips to grocery stores, plus medical escorts.

n Free assistance on income tax returns, with tax preparers trained by AARP. Plus information on reverse mortgages.

n Project Alert, overseen by Derman, which contacts seniors in case of emergencies such as ice storms and heat waves. 'I love that program,' Suteu said. 'I wish more people would sign up for it.'

n Loan of free medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, shower chairs, crutches, and walkers.

n The Respite Program, which assists severely disabled senior citizens and also provides relaxation time for their caregivers.

n Clinics for foot problems (often crucial for diabetics) and high blood pressure.

n Classes on medications, health and wellness.

n Bereavement and remembrance services.

n Flu shot clinic, which last year inoculated between 400 and 500 people. This clinic is done on an appointment-only basis, thus avoiding the long lines and waiting often encountered at flu shot clinics. 'It works really smoothly and we always get compliments on it,' Tassos said.

n Counseling on Medicaid and Medicare, provided by Tassos and Derman, in which a frustrating process can be made easy.

Some services are on a less- formal basis.

'If we see an unmet need, we'll try to add something,' Derman said.

'Like housing,' Tassos said. 'Berta did a fair on how to look for housing in Lake Oswego.'

Roll all of these things together and you have one very impressive program. In fact, it lacks in only one way: More senior citizens need to know about it.

Suteu and company are working on that. Suteu has done presentations about ACC social services at Lake Oswego Rotary Club, churches, and other venues. Derman has set up a booth at the Lake Oswego Farmers' Market. Plus, city firefighters and policemen hand out business cards that list services for senior citizens.

The ACC also gets a big assist from Pat Tylman, who has served as Lake Oswego's 'Welcome Lady' for a remarkable 30 years. In her many contacts with newcomers to Lake Oswego, Tylman makes it a point to let people over age 50 know what is available at the senior center.

'I've been doing this a lot for the last couple years,' said Tylman, whose husband Vince teaches computer classes at the ACC.

The reasons for the gap in knowledge about the ACC are uncertain, but Derman said, 'It may be because they don't want to actually think about these services until they actually need them. But when a crisis occurs, they're scrambling.'

Scrambling is a situation that Derman, Tassos and Suteu want to avoid.

'We are trying to be as comprehensive as possible for senior citizens,' Suteu said. 'These ladies have created quite an extensive social services department that's comparable to those available at a big hospital.'

'I can't see any diminishing of social services,' Derman said. 'I can only see them expanding. We're an aging population.'

The Lake Oswego Adult Community Center is located at 505 G Ave. For more information about the ACC and its social services, call 503-635-3758.