The Sandwich Generation – Elder Care Age Demographics

The Sandwich Generation – Elder Care Age Demographics

Elder Care and the Sandwich GenerationElder Care and the Sandwich Generation

What is The Sandwich Generation?

If you have both an aging parent and are supporting a minor or grown child, then you are part of the Sandwich Generation. Pew Research Center defines this generation as those adults, ages 40-59, in the U.S. who “have a living parent at age 65 or older and are either raising a child under age 18 or supporting a growing child.” [1]  47% of adults in the U.S. meet this criteria and 15% of adults are financially supporting both a parent and a child.[2] The largest population who currently fit this criteria belong to Generation X, recently surpassing Baby Boomers.

Interestingly, the felt responsibility to support an aging parent is stronger than that of supporting a grown child, but the reality is that grown children are more likely to receive financial support over aging parents. Specifically, 75% of adults consider financially providing for a parent a “responsibility” while 52% of adults feel this with respect to their grown children. Yet, in actuality, 63% of adults support grown children financially compared to 32% who give financial support to an aging parent. Reasons for this disparity mostly involve a grown child being in school, but other reasons exist, as well.

These statistics illustrate a widespread reality: middle-aged adults in the U.S. are pressured to provide support for two different generations.

This is not a unique situation for the U.S. In Hong Kong, for example, Confucian filial piety plays an important role in caring for aging parents for middle-aged adults. In a 2006 research study done among adult children in Hong Kong, 94% feel that caring for their aging parent is their responsibility. Most caregiving of this sort was in the form of emotional or financial support.[3] As seen above, this feeling of responsibility is common in the U.S., too.

Being part of the Sandwich Generation

The Sandwich Generation is growing in the U.S. Some attribute this increase to the fact that people are getting married and having children at an older age.[4] However, this fact may be only one part within the U.S.’s larger economic context. The consequences of the 2008 financial crisis have deflated many livelihoods while recovery has been slow. As a result, parents are supporting their grown children who are having more difficulty finding employment or earning sufficient wages to make them more independent.

Even though most adults who are part of the Sandwich Generation report fairly high happiness levels, supporting an aging parent along with a child may introduce a lot of stress into your life. Depending on your average annual income, the financial strain of supporting a child and a parent may restructure or delay your retirement plans. Additionally, middle-aged adults in the Sandwich Generation may have a lot of difficulty balancing a full-time job and caregiving, potentially affecting their ability to advance in their career.[5] These realities can be very strenuous and confronting them can be challenging. It may be advisable, if resources allow, to see a financial and/or a psychological counselor to find strategies to help cope with stress, strategize your next decisions, and plan for your future.

If your aging parent requires care beyond what you can physically provide, then you can consider finding a caregiving service for them. Depending on what their insurance policies and financial circumstances are, you may find tremendous help with consistent caregiving from a nurse registry like ElderCare at Home. The decision to find a registered caregiver can alleviate some of the emotional (and maybe financial) pressure you experience.

If you decide to live with your aging parent to care for them, as many do, then it is important to remember to take care of yourself, as well. See ElderCare’s previous blog on taking breaks while being a family caregiver for some advice.

If you would like more information, please visit ElderCare at Home’s website or call us at 561-585-0400.

[1] “The Sandwich Generation: Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans.” Pew Research Center, last modified January 30, 2013, accessed August 18, 2016. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/01/30/the-sandwich-generation/.
[2] Most of the statistics and patterns discussed in this article are from the Pew Research Center’s report (cited above) unless otherwise noted.
[3] Richard Cheung Lam, “Contradictions between Traditional Chinese Values and the Actual Performance: A Study of the Caregiving Role of the Modern Sandwich Generation in Hong Kong,” Journal of Comparative Family Studies 37, no. 2 (2006): 299-313.
[4] “Stress Takes a Bite out of Sandwich Generation.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, last modified November 23, 2015, accessed August 19, 2016. http://www.post-gazette.com/business/money/2015/11/23/the-stress-of-caring-for-both-their-kids-and-their-parents-takes-a-bite-out-of-sandwich-generation/stories/201511220018
[5] Ibid.