This is a fascinating piece, Lydia. As a father of four, widowed in my 40's, I share many of the experiences of people considerably older than myself.
Personally, I agree with your study subjects in that some of the best times of my life were those early years raising my children. On the other hand, losing my wife and finding myself in my late forties alone with four not quite grown children put me as close to deep depression as I’ve ever been.
Now, in my mid-fifties I have a whole new lease on life. The kids are grown and pretty well adjusted human beings. I have a great relationship with them all. I’m also a grandfather. I’m not sure if I would call these the best years of my life but they are wonderful, in a different way than those years of crazy busy parenthood and career growth.
Like you, I never really looked forward to old age. And yet here I am, well on my way. I’m finding it very rewarding and while they may not be the best years of my life I think they might be the happiest.
Thank you for this piece. I really enjoyed it.