There Will Always be Room for Music

Imagine one day you decide to move into a retirement home, would you like to go to one that caters exclusively to people in your profession?

Do you REALLY want to live with a house full of nurses? Accountants? Writers?

“Quartet” (2012) was a quaint little gem about residents in a home for famous retired musicians in the UK. The idea of filling a house with older musicians seemed absurd initially, but a quick Google search led me to a home for retired opera singers in Milan, as featured in the documentary “Tosca’s Kiss” (1984). I also found the Motion Picture and Television Fund Country House in California and the Actors Fund Homes in New Jersey, featured in the documentary “Curtain Call” (2000).

Perhaps it isn’t such a bad idea then?

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“You must understand, I was someone once.” — Jean Horton (Played by Maggie Smith)

What made this movie stand out was its ability to showcase the diversity in aging, even within a supposedly homogeneous group. These individuals might have been brought together by music, yet their identities as musicians, retirees, and aging adults were far from identical. While most were able to define the role of music in their lives as something that brought pleasure, it took the protagonist a long time to finally not let music and fame define who she was. By letting go of something she’s nervously held onto for decades, she was able to reconnect with the world and music in a luminous way.

For critics out there who felt that this was a fairy-tale that failed to capture “the deterioration of age,” perhaps it’s time for them to reexamine their own aging stereotypes. Aging does not always involve devastating consequences. Dementia and worn-out hips don’t always have the same impact on everybody, and certainly not all the time. While this movie may have captured the more positive end of the spectrum given its setting in an upscale facility, it is indeed possible for many to flourish as they age. In fact, if I must pick a movie to represent aging and resilience, I will choose “Quartet” over “Amour” any day.

p.s. I still have my doubts about letting a huge group of retired musicians live together but it’ll probably be more bearable than a house full of psychologists. What do you think?

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About C

If you consider volunteering at a luncheon for older adults as my first exposure to the field, I have been in geropsychology for at least twenty years. As family, friend, volunteer, trainee, and professional, I have found myself in adult day care centers, senior centers, senior living facilities, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric wards, hospice, and personal homes of older adults. Wherever I go, be it an orphanage, a museum, a prison, an airport, or a random corner in the neighborhood, issues related to aging and mental health often come to mind. I used to think that I could make a difference only if I became a top-notch researcher, educator, or clinician. As I continue to follow this meandering path, it dawns on me that as a nobody in the field, I can still add my light to the sum of light by sharing what I know. Over the years, I have "converted" a few very dedicated individuals to focus on aging-related work within their respective disciplines and encouraged a handful more to stay in this field despite its winding course. I believe by bringing aging and mental health issues to the foreground, we will amass a stronger force to promote advocacy, research, and quality care.
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