Have you heard about the recent movie, Quartet? In a nutshell, it stars Maggie Smith. The plot centers on an old age home full of retired classical musicians and opera singers. It was originally a play by Ronald Harwood which we saw a few years ago at the Merrimack Repertory Theater. The characters come together in an effort to sing for a gala of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
This example makes me think of the Adult Learning theory on “theories of the life course.” As we all go through stages in life from childhood to adulthood, we approach life experiences and learning in different ways. This is cited in Tennant and Pogson’s “Learning and Change in the Adult Years” (Ch 4). They refer to Eric Erickson (1959) who highlights the stages of life as a developmental theorist “who recognizes that a strong sense of identity leads naturally to a capacity for interdependence.” This charts the life course in terms of phases or stages: periods of stability, equilibrium, balance along with periods of instability and transition. (pg 88-89). An alternate theory to life stages is highlighted by Neugarten (1976). She states that circumstances within age brackets are not set in stone, but are flexible with social time, historical time and chronological time. But it is Merriman (2007) “Learning in Adulthood,” that nicely sums up life stages: “it is how we learn from experiences, rather than how life experiences constrain or limit our learning.”
This parallels the plot of the movie: The main character, Jean, arrives at the old age home. She is the ex-wife of Reggie. I would surmise, at that stage of life, they fought and argued. They were not in balance and very unstable. Predictably, in the movie, the characters come together at the climax. They all get along for the annual gala.
While the movie highlights the foibles and frailties of aging, it’s also about the triumphant efforts to keep singing!