Doris Roberts hates when people call her old.
"I want the word 'old' stricken from our vocabulary," she said. "I want the word 'older' put in. You can call me an older woman, because that's what I am, but don't call me an old woman, because I am not that."
The 85-year-old actress -- most famous for her role as Marie Barone in the TV sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" -- was the featured speaker at the 2012 Life Boomers & Seniors Expo on Saturday. Hundreds of people attended the Expo and listened as Roberts shared stories from her life.
She told about the time she tried to use her Zippo lighter after her 5-year-old son blew out the candles in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, and about a moment of laughter she shared with her late husband before he died. She talked about working with Tyler Perry -- he's a genius, she said -- and her plans to start filming a new movie next week.
She's a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama and enjoys sharing dinner with friends. She's not much like Marie Barone, she said, and people are usually surprised by that. She finds death frightening. She's proud of her career, but even more proud of her son and grandchildren.
And she never gets tired of hearing from "Everybody Loves Raymond" fans.
"When they stop asking, when they stop being involved, I'm in trouble," she said. "Just the idea that what I've accomplished is making people laugh all over the world -- in 160 countries in the world -- whoa."
Roberts' appearance wrapped up the Expo, which allowed guests to browse through nearly 100 booths representing businesses, organizations and vendors. The Expo is sponsored by the Times Free Press and Memorial Health Care System.
Visitors could get free massages and health screenings or gather information on retirement facilities, banking services, walk-in bathtubs or in-home care, among other products and services marketed to seniors.
Chattanooga resident Donald Karlin talked with his insurance company, learned about a retirement community and planned to get his hearing screened while he was at the Expo.
"I live with my son, who has a great big house, and we have three dogs," he said. "I got lonely, and I saw this for people my age -- I'm 80 years old -- and I thought, 'Oh what the hell, I'll check it out.'"
Betty Bryant was visiting her sisters for the weekend and thought the Expo would be both fun and educational.
"I was interested in seeing the fitness equipment and the different ideas of things for baby boomers," she said.
Bill Gallagher said he only came to the Expo because his wife of nearly 50 years wanted to go. But he still enjoyed the free candy many booths gave out.
"He is a chocolate candy basket-hopper," said his wife, Diane Gallagher.
"Well," he shot back, "somebody has to eat it."
Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6476.
DORIS ROBERTS ON AGING
Q: What's it like to get older?
A: As you get older, your body doesn't do what you want it to do and you get mad at it. But you can't give in, you can't give up. Because if you do, you're losing what wonderful time you have. I don't give in, I don't give up, and I don't settle, as some older people do.
Q: What are your thoughts on age discrimination? Is it just a Hollywood problem?
A: It's an American problem. I hate the way the media treats older people. They're old fools; they're old farts. The things the media says are awful. Why doesn't the media respect older people? There's nothing old about me to begin with. I'm not an old fool; I'm not an old fart; I'm an actress who's been doing this for over 50 years. And I keep learning, I still go to school on Saturday mornings. So why would you make fun of me? Why wouldn't you say, well that is wonderful?
Q: How do you combat that attitude when you run up against it?
A: I fight it all the time. It's the last bastion of bigotry. Every other person -- gays, blacks, whatever -- have laws that stop people from abusing them. But if you are a senior, you have no law.
Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...