I am middle aged. I don’t like to admit that too often, but it’s
true. Like many people my age, I am part of a generation where I have
to split my time between issues involving my children and my parents.
I have two teenage daughters (need I say more?), and a father who lives
in an assisted living facility in central Florida, each of whom require
my care and attention.
I am part of what is called the “sandwich generation”. You
may have heard this popular term before. The sandwich generation describes
those of us who care for our aging parents while supporting our children.
Are you part of the sandwich generation? If so, you may find the following
facts interesting, as I have.
In the United States, during the twentieth century from 1900-2000, life
expectancy has increased from 47 years old to 76 years old, according
to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since humans are living longer, this
exponential increase has produced a large population of older adults,
creating a need for more caregivers.
In 1981, social worker Dorothy Miller coined the term “sandwich generation”,
originally referring to younger women in their 30s-40s who were taking
care of both their parents and children. Today, you are considered part
of the sandwich generation if you have parent(s) who are over the age
of 65 and dependent children under the age of 18, both of which rely on
your financial and/or emotional support.
The latest Census report found that while members of the sandwich generation
are diverse, some trends have emerged.
For example, most of the members of the sandwich generation are between
40-59 years old, but nearly 20% are younger than 40. Imagine having to
meet the needs of both your parents and your children while in your thirties!
Also, a disparity exists between married and unmarried sandwich generation
members, and gender. While only 13% of members are unmarried, fully 36%
members are married. Further, the wife in the marriage often self-identifies
as the predominant caregiver.
Ethnicity may play a role, too. Hispanics make up as much as 31% of the
members in the sandwich generation, compared with Caucasians at 24%, and
African Americans at 21%.
As suspected, being a member of the sandwich generation demands lots of
time and money. Members are therefore likely to be more affluent than
non-members, as 43% of caregivers earn household incomes over $100,000.
While I relish my job as both son and father, being a part of this club
is not without its challenges. I identify with the common feelings among
the sandwich generation of high stress, financial burden, and caregiver
burnout. These three things can easily become overwhelming.
However, I am also extremely grateful to have my wonderful family. At the
end of a long day, I’m reminded of the happiness and joy they bring
me. Apparently, I’m not alone. Pew Research found in one study that
31% of sandwich generation members reported being “very happy”
with their lives compared with only 28% of non-sandwich generation responders.
So, what’s my take on being a part of the sandwich generation? I
see it as both a challenge and a reward, with the positives far outweighing
the negatives. Just the way life should be.
READ THE FOLLOW-UP TO THIS BLOG POST:
The Sandwich Generation II: Long-Term Care Facilities