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‘S’Up?’ Resident Discussion Group Covers Hot Topics

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“S’up?” In modern slang, the term is short for “what’s up?” or “what’s new?”

Mention “S’Up” at Village Shalom, however, and you’ll be directed to Dick Greenberg’s twice-weekly discussion group on current events. Covering news stories and hot topics of all kinds, S’Up has become such an attraction for Village Shalom residents that the group recently moved to a larger space to accommodate the turnout.

The concept of S’Up arose shortly after Greenberg took up residence in his Village Shalom apartment in early 2012. At mealtime, he regularly joins fellow resident Sam Gould at a table in the assisted-living dining room. The two enjoy discussions about sports and current events, but Gould’s poor eyesight and hearing affect his ability to get the latest news from the paper or broadcast media.

Greenberg recounted that he was “originally going to read the newspaper to Sam so he would know ‘what’s up’ – what’s going on in the world.”

It then occurred to him that such a project could have a broader reach. “I realized there are other people here who have some of the same limitations. But they still have such a contribution to make. They’ve been there, thought about it, experienced it, and have an opinion.”

And so S’Up took shape to give participants “an opportunity to discuss current events and important issues,” Greenberg said. “And they do. They have an opinion on damn near everything.”

S’Up caught on “the very first day, just by word of mouth. Seven people showed up.” Its popularity grew, and the typical attendance is now somewhere between 15 and 20 at each session.

As moderator of the group, Greenberg gleans discussion topics from recent headlines or news items of interest. “I get on my iPad,” said the 79-year-old, who is adept at surfing the Internet. “My first stop is the Kansas City Star, where I get local sports and news. Then I go to USA Today, CNN, The New Yorker, Huffington Post, New York Times – even Al Jazeera. If I find an article I like, and think it would create some discussion, then I save it.”

 

Dick Greenberg (holding microphone) moderates the S’Up current-events discussion group.

He demonstrated by scrolling through page after iPad page of saved links to articles on politics, sports, business, medicine and the like. He noted that medical news is a popular topic, given that the participants are “all involved, from an age and physical standpoint.”

Regarding politics, “everybody has an opinion and they’re not afraid to voice it,” he said. “Sports appeals to the guys,” although occasionally the women in the predominantly female group will chime in on the topic. And when the discussion gets a little too heated on any issue, Greenberg interjects his own thoughts to guide the conversation back to calmer waters.

“I get energized by doing this,” he said. “It gives me an excuse to spend my time reading the newspaper and watching TV” to come up with topics for discussion. “I used to do that at breakfast clubs. Even as a kid, I talked about current events with my dad. We would talk about what’s going on in the world, and then he would ask me, ‘How do you feel about it?’”

Greenberg has always had a penchant for exploring new ideas. A law-school graduate, he never practiced law but instead went to work for his family’s business. He has developed, owned and managed businesses in bag manufacturing, carpet manufacturing, retail home centers and janitorial services. And though he lives in a retirement community, he is far from being retired.

“If you can stay involved, you can be a part of the world. The world is going on, whether you’re involved or not. You have to keep in touch. It takes a real effort. Culture has changed so much. It’s so different now – if you let it pass by, you’re just waiting to sink.”

Sam Gould, on whose behalf the S’Up group began, is pleased to be involved. “It’s something I can grasp. Until recently, I would read the newspaper in its entirety, and the group is helping me immensely to keep on top of the news of the day. Dick does a great job. He’s very good at moderating the program.”

Though the participants in S’Up come from a variety of backgrounds, locales and life experiences, “they’ve become homogeneous to a degree – because of our age and situation,” Greenberg opined. “When they allow themselves to have a flash of something different and a modicum of understanding – you see a change take place. It has value.”

S’Up? At Village Shalom, quite a lot.