When senior center group gathers at table, current events is on the menu

October 30, 1994|By Dolly Merritt | Dolly Merritt,Contributing Writer

It's a klatch -- minus the coffee -- of about 15 senior citizens that meets every Monday morning at the Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia.

Calling themselves the SPRING Currents, members discuss national and international current events. The group is one of 12 operating at the senior center under a program known as SPRING, short for Senior Peer Resources: Individuals, Networks

and Groups.

On a recent Monday morning, seven women and six men sat around a conference table and chatted amicably as they waited for their leader, Charles "Bud" Hochberg, to start the meeting by presenting the first news topic of the day.

"What do you think about the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Arafat?" said the 75-year-old Columbia resident.

His question evoked an immediate discussion of whether past recipients of the prize had deserved it. After a five-minute discussion, Mr. Hochberg skillfully introduced the next topic, the movement of U.S. troops to Kuwait.

The retired real estate broker has experience in leading discussion groups. About 40 years ago, while living in California, he started a group after attending a three-day workshop on the mechanics for leading discussions.

Two years ago, after attending a similar workshop sponsored by SPRING, Mr. Hochberg expressed an interest in starting a current events group at Florence Bain.

"When you retire, you have a problem of becoming stagnant," he said. "With once-a-week meetings, there is no stagnation. . . . We discuss whatever happens to be news."

The leader keeps informed by reading newspapers and watching television news shows. "I don't have to think up topics," Mr. Hochberg said.

During the meeting, Mr. Hochberg kept conversations on target as he maneuvered the discussion from one topic to another. When he introduced trade issues, strong opinions flowed freely.

"We started making better products because of competition," said Don Morgan, a 61-year-old Elkridge resident. "We stopped using quality control because we were interested in money. . . . When Japanese cars came along, we began working to put together better products."

"I do not believe in buying foreign autos," said Dave Galloway, a 66-year-old Columbia resident and retired graphic artist. "I always think that you're putting an American out of a job."

Despite the differences of opinion, the conversation continued smoothly.

"There's no animosity and no right or wrong answer," Mr. Hochberg said. And when a discussion occasionally becomes too heated, the leader said, he changes the subject.

"We never discuss religion," said Helen Adams, an 80-year-old Columbia resident and retired administrative secretary. "Throughout history, there's been too much bloodshed about that. We discuss many other things and never get angry with one another, and that is unusual for a group with so many opinions."

Edward Joell, an "over 65" Columbia resident, joined the group a year ago, eager to discuss current events with people who shared similar interests.

The former teacher and teaching consultant believes he can offer a different perspective on international affairs because he lived overseas for 15 years and sometimes plays "devil's advocate."

"There are so few people who are interested in anything beyond their own neighborhood and problems," Mr. Joell said.

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