Aging Parents and Young Adult Children Put the Squeeze on Middle-Age Americans with Sandwich Generation Stress
Middle-age Americans American are feeling the pressure to support not just themselves, but their aging parents and young adult children. According to research by the Pew Foundation, nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. About one-in-eight middle-aged adults is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child, and another 7 to 10 million people are trying to care for aging parents from a long distance.
Why the Sandwich Generation?
Some people call these middle-age adults “the sandwich generation” because they are being squeezed on one side by their aging parents and on the other by their not-yet-independent children. Who is the sandwich generation? Its members are mostly middle-aged: 71% of this group is ages 40 to 59. An additional 19% are younger than 40 and 10% are age 60 or older. Men and women are equally likely to be members of the sandwich generation, but Hispanics are more likely than whites or blacks to be in this situation.
Caring for Aging Parents and Children
So why do Baby Boomers and members of Generation X find themselves taking care of their parents and children? For starters, people are living longer – and as they get up in years they and their spouses often need help from their children. And it’s only going to become more prevalent – the federal government predicts that the number of Americans over 65 will double by the year 2030, to over 70 million.
And with regard to their children, the economic recession and slow recovery of the last decade have meant that many graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Pew found that almost half (48%) of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year, with 27% providing the primary support. The situation has gotten worse in the last decade, creating extra sandwich generation stress.
Pressure on the Sandwich Generation
Middle-age adults who are caring for their parents and grown children often feel pulled in several directions. In addition to providing financial support, nearly 40 percent say both their grown children and their parents rely on them for emotional support. However, researchers found that adults in the sandwich generation are just as happy with their lives overall as are other adults. About a third of them say they are very happy with their lives, and an additional 52% say they are pretty happy. Happiness rates are nearly the same among adults who are not part of the sandwich generation: 28% are very happy, and 51% are pretty happy.
Help for Aging Parents
If you’re a member of the sandwich generation, you should know that there are lots of agencies that offer services that could help your aging parents. Here are some of the services that might take some pressure off you and help your parents.
• Live-in care – this can be a happier and more cost-effective alternative to nursing home care.
• Care by the Hour – you can hire professionals as needed to help your parents with shopping, driving to appointments and similar activities.
• Alzheimer’s care ¬– structured activities may reduce your parent’s agitation and improve his quality of life.
• Morning care – there are professionals who will help your parent with grooming, breakfast, medicine reminders and anything else they may need.
• Night care – many times older people, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease, have a sharp drop in mental acuity at the end of the day. You can hire people who can come in to help with dinner, help them get ready for bed, and remind them to take their medicine.
Talk with your friends about how they provide help to their aging parents so you can reduce sandwich generation stress. It’s also a good idea to check with medical professionals, clergy or social workers to get recommendations.
You may find that getting some help for your aging parents will take some burdens off your shoulders and improve both your parents’ lives and yours.