What Are The Main Issues Facing The Sandwich Generation?

Due to an aging population, millions of middle-aged Americans are caught between helping their elderly parents and raising their own children. These individuals are typically in their 40’s or 50’s and have at least one parent aged 65 years or older while simultaneously bringing up a young child or financially supporting children over the age of 18 years old. Most of the time, these people work full-time to support their role as a caregiver to those who depend on them to help meet their physical or emotional needs. The critical role of this generation for their families is unique to modern society. Here is what you need to know about the Sandwich Generation. 

Sandwich Generation Facts

As the citizens in the United States continue to grow older and live longer, the pervasiveness of the Sandwich Generation is presenting a swell of unique situations this group is required to overcome.

  1. The Sandwich Generation is Growing According to a survey conducted by Pew Research in 2012, nearly 50% of adults aged 40 to 59 years were part of the Sandwich Generation, meaning they had a parent aged over 65 years while also raising or financially supporting a child. Over the next 25 years, the number of people living as senior citizens is expected to double, resulting in the Sandwich Generation continuing to grow as well. Additionally, the number of young adults who continue to live at home or rely on their parents for financial support is increasing, further contributing to the growth of those caught in between. 
  1. Financial Strain The same Pew Research study found that almost 50% of the Sandwich Generation provided some sort of financial aid to their children over 18 years old, with 27% acknowledging that they remained their child’s primary source of financial support. At the same time, 21% of this demographic also indicated that they provide financially for at least one parent over the age of 65 years old. Bestowing this level of support to those around them places the Sandwich Generation under additional strain financially, the results of which we may not fully see as a society until these individuals age themselves and reach retirement. 
  1. Career Implications In addition to raising or supporting their children and caring for their aging parents, members of the Sandwich Generation continue to provide for themselves. In nearly all cases, these individuals continue to maintain a full-time career and oftentimes have to make adjustments to their work-life in order to accommodate these new demands on their time. This might result in these individuals being unable to advance in their careers as they would have otherwise. Businesses also feel the impact of this as they begin to allow individuals more flexibility in order to address such familial concerns. 
  1. Health Concerns The competing demands placed on members of the Sandwich Generation often increase an individual’s stress, which could be linked to some health concerns. As this group is stretched between many different priorities, they tend to neglect their own self-care. They put their own needs aside, including missing doctor appointments, skipping out on exercise, or forgoing healthy home-cooked meals instead of opting for fast food. Though this may save them time in the short-term, they often end up feeling drained, getting sick, and suffering from pervasive stress. Together, these factors could result in increased obesity, diabetes, and other markers of declining health.

Unfortunately, these Sandwich Generation issues won’t be disappearing anytime soon. In fact, as more people enter into this demographic, they stand to become more prevalent and severe. As a society, we will start to see the impact of the Sandwich Generation over the coming years. Serving as the caregiver for both children and elderly parents is a full-time job. Living in this situation not only requires financial planning, but it can also lead to a high amount of stress as well. For older adults in this generation, they may need further assistance or family resources to help care for children at a young age. Though many economists, doctors, and other professionals are trying to make predictions about the implications of this generation, only time will tell.