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Booths Offer Services, Groups for Seniors : Having the Time of Their Lives at Expo

April 15, 1985|URSULA VILS | Times Staff Writer

Bert Gallagher's bright yellow T-shirt said it all--and in capital letters: "SIXTY, SEXY AND FEELING FINE."

Gallagher, his wife, Jo, and their neighbors of 30 years, Ellen and Joe Glocich, had come from Glendale to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the second annual Time of Your Life Expo on Saturday and seemingly were having a fine time wandering through the more than 300 exhibits.

They saw an array of booths aimed specifically at the needs, tastes and interests of those over 50. Categories included travel and leisure, food and nutrition, finances, security and crime prevention, jobs and hobbies, housing, health and fitness, legal matters, beauty and fashion, retirement planning, home repairs and conveniences.

The Gallaghers and the Glociches were among the estimated 10,000 that thronged the Convention Center's North Hall, where the Expo was to continue Sunday and today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. About two-thirds of the exhibits are commercial, with one-third from community service agencies and organizations that specifically assist the elderly.

While the service groups were sprinkled liberally among the exhibits, the Expo was frankly commercial, perhaps because of the demographics cited by its organizer, Karen Press, president of Opportunities and Services for Seniors Inc.

"There are 4 million people over 50 in Southern California, close to 1 million of them in the city alone," she said. "We have to recognize consumer needs; 28% of consumers are 50-plus, and 80% of pleasure travel is done by adults over 50."

Expo visitors--overwhelmingly in the 50-plus category--gravitated to booths that offered free snacks. They found literature in Chinese at the booth of CAAC, the national airline of the People's Republic of China. Down the aisle American capitalism in the form of various financial institutions offered information on mutual funds and IRA accounts, presumably the kinds of business devices that could make world travel a possibility.

Bubble Machine

At Lawrence Welk's display a bubble machine spewed iridescent globules in the air as staffers sold Welk records and tapes and handed out literature on Welk's resort complex in Escondido and "I Lawrence Welk" buttons. A free catalogue of Welk mementos included items that ranged from music boxes ($22.95 and up) and Big Band albums to an accordion-decorated pewter key chain and an earrings-pendant-and-bracelet set of "Black Hills South Dakota" gold ($199.95).

There were recreational vehicles and mobile homes, health foods and cooking demonstrations, Exercycles and reclining chairs, samples of cosmetics and toothpaste for denture-wearers, and information on retirement homes, convalescent hospitals and bus transportation.

People lined up for free health screenings: vision, hearing, feet, diabetes, stroke detection, breast examinations, blood pressure, oral cancer. Seminars were offered on everything from travel to legal rights.

Entertainment began with the Dancin' Grandmas and continued with the Home Savings Orchestra. Naturally Gypsy Boots was there to do his dance. Celebrities turned out for special awards presentations.

Little caravans of wheelchairs, some pushed by fellow residents of seniors homes, others by Boy Scouts, made their way through the crowded aisles, the group sometimes pausing to view video presentations ("How to select a nursing home"). Boy Scouts also helped neaten the exhibit hall, picking up bits of paper and discarded toothpicks from a sampling of salami.

Law enforcement agencies were prominent--as exhibitors. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department handed out "Vial of Life" kits for emergency medications and pamphlets on bunco, home safety, car theft, rape awareness and other crime prevention measures. The district attorney's and attorney general's offices and the County Bar Assn. offered legal information.

Travel and leisure were out in force, from Worldwide Golf Tours to the Federation of Fly Fishers (staffed by a woman wearing a battered fedora adorned with a fishing fly). Booths touting cruises, airline trips and bus tours offered packages just about anywhere in the world, and the Assn. and Club Travel of America Inc. plugged TravelMate, "the national introduction service for single travelers."

Lobbying organizations did a brisk business, especially the Gray Panthers, who wore identifying T-shirts and handed out cards protesting Social Security and Medicare cuts to be mailed to Congress. DOVES (Dedicated Older Volunteers in Educational Services) recruited people to help out in city schools, and the California Senior Legislature handed out pamphlets on its efforts.

The American Assn. of Retired Persons--now an organization of 18.2 million members--staffed a cluster of eye-catching exhibits on insurance, books, legal counsel and travel service. Braille Institute displayed its audio library resources, and Large-Print-Books-by-Mail offered a chocolate mousse recipe from its new "Fannie Farmer Large Print Cookbook."

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