"Age fast, age slow--it's up to you."
That's the message of Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, the man who coined the term "aerobics" with the publication of his 1968 best-seller of the same name.
Cooper, founder and president of the Aerobics Center in Dallas, brought his message to the Crystal Cathedral on Friday, the final day of the three-day "Prime Time: A Possibility Thinkers Conference for Retired Persons (and Those Anticipating Retirement)."
Cooper, a leader in the field of preventive medicine, told of an 86-year-old man who walks five miles in 70 minutes--before going to work. He talked of a 92-year-old man who plays racquetball for an hour every day. And he spoke of a man who began jogging at age 65 and, at 71, jogged from the State of Maine to Washington State, averaging 27 miles a day.
"When I was in medical school I was taught a man past 40 should never jog; he'll have a heart attack," said Cooper, 55, himself a jogger for the last 26 years. "I predict a man past 40 will soon hold the world's record for the marathon."
His voice rising and lowering dramatically for emphasis, Cooper added: "What is the capacity of a human being? Age fast, age slow, it's up to you."
Cooper and his wife, Mildred, with whom he co-authored "Aerobics for Women," were just two of the speakers at the three-day conference that also featured, among others, former Los Angeles congressman James Roosevelt, Eyewitness News seniors correspondent Doris Winkler, television personality Art Linkletter (master of ceremonies at the conference banquet) and vocalist Norma Zimmer. Participants also heard from Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who was guest speaker at the regularly scheduled Possibility Thinkers luncheon on Friday.
About 65 people turned out for the conference--a decidedly smaller crowd than conference organizers had expected, and which prompted a last-minute 35% reduction in price from $175 to $115 for senior citizens.
The relatively low turnout was attributed largely to the fact that the "Prime Time" conference was held a week before the celebrity-studded--and free--American Assn. of Retired Persons (AARP) biennial convention, which will be held Tuesday through Thursday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
"Piggy-backing" on the AARP convention had been intended as "a plus, but it wasn't," acknowledged T. Eugene Coffin, minister with seniors at the Crystal Cathedral.
Coffin said "Prime Time" is the first of what the Crystal Cathedral plans as an annual event and, despite the similarity in theme, there are differences between the two conferences.
"One of our basic bottom lines is to develop the spiritual dimension that is involved in maturity and growing older," Coffin said in an interview. "That's the difference between our conference and AARP. We're dealing with the practical questions as well, but with the added dimension of how does this relate to the inner life development of the persons, along with the physical or outer."
Inner development included lectures on such topics as "Refreshing Your Spiritual Life," "Living Enthusiastically," and "Growing Old and Decrepit Is a Bad Habit."
On the practical side were lectures on financial planning for retirement years; handling grief and loss; estates, wills and trusts--and James Roosevelt on Social Security and his National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
Roosevelt, 78, a Newport Beach resident, said he started the committee three years ago in response to "threats to the whole (Social Security) system" and to have "constant representation in Washington of those people who depend upon Social Security.
"Every other group has representation . . . except the senior citizen," he said. "The lobby really is the whole Congress, but unfortunately, because it was not organized, the voice of the people on Social Security was not heard to the extent I felt it should be."
3.2 Million Members
There are now 3.2 million dues-paying ($10 a year) committee members who receive a quarterly newsletter and legislative alerts on congressional activity on Social Security, he said.
Roosevelt observed that a number of congressmen "have told me privately that their mail has increased four times since our committee has been in touch with the senior citizens. That meant that they had to go out and explain their vote, and they don't always like to explain their vote from time to time."
Saying he doesn't think legislators are going to be influenced by any individual paid lobbyist when it comes to Social Security and Medicare benefits, Roosevelt said, "they're going to be influenced by the senior citizen.
"Members of Congress are not appointed, they're elected by the people and I think they do a better job if they hear directly from the people whom they represent in the Congress of the United States," he said.
Conference participants also heard from M. Neel Buell, executive director of Coastline Community College's Emeritus Institute, whose topic was "Discover Your Possibilities."