Senior citizens who gathered by the hundreds to hear actor Wilford Brimley offer tips about aging may have been disappointed. He said he didn't know anything about getting old other than he didn't intend to do it.

But the "Utah boy made good" received a standing ovation for his combination of poetry reading and comedy routine. And he also found time for a few very serious words about living in and loving the West and taking care of the land. In fact, he was crying when he left the Salt Palace Wednesday.Brimley was the keynote speaker for the second annual Conference on Aging, sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R Utah. The theme of the conference, which attracted wide participation by those 55 and over, was "New Visions of Aging," and topics ranged from the Catastrophic Health Care Act to physical fitness for the elderly.

"I made a deal with the same fellow who built the Rocky Mountains," Brimley said. "Whatever I get my hands on in this life, I'm going to leave it in better shape than I found it.

"I don't need no BLM, Big Brother, etc. I think I can do it myself. And between you and me, I think we're not bad caretakers."

The actor quoted artist Charles Russell, who said, "Take care of this land for there is no afterlife for a place that started out as heaven."

Brimley was born in Salt Lake City in 1934. "Most of you were dying of old age then, I guess," he quipped. He is best known for his roles in the movies "Cocoon" and "The Natural." He makes his home in Utah part of the year.

He said he swims a mile every day, rides horses and walks two miles. "I have adult-onset Type 2 diabetes," he said, "and it's the best thing that happened to me because I began to take better care of myself. If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I would've gotten started earlier."

Brimley described himself as a "proud Westerner" and read two poems that describe his feelings about small towns and western life.

He also told the senior citizens not to spend their time aging. "I refuse to spend the rest of my life preparing for my death. You miss what's going on in life and I don't intend to do that."

During the conference, Percy Devine, director of the Division of Aging and Adult Services, and Ted Livingston, Area Aging Association, presented an award to Hatch for his efforts on behalf of Utah's elderly.