The New Sandwich Generation

18 Mar

I know of a woman who lived in a nursing home here in Toronto. This woman was 106 and had dementia. Her adult daughter come to feed her mother lunch and dinner every day for almost 20 years. One day, the visits stopped and the daughter was never seen at the home again. She was simply too tired to continue her daily routine.  The daughter was 88.

The label “sandwich generation” may be relatively new, but the concept of families caring for young children and aging parents at the same time has been around for centuries. What sets this sandwich generation apart is it is  the first generation in which a large majority of women work full-time outside the home. This is significant because women are far more likely than men to assume care giving responsibilities. Also noteworthy is our parents have a much higher life expectancy than their parents. And with advanced age comes the likelihood of more complicated health issues.

Many of the women in this new sandwich generation may have  put marriage and children on hold while establishing careers. We might have married late, or like myself, not at all. As a result we have the highest percentage ever of first time births by women over 35. Regardless of when we came to parenthood, ours is a generation of dual income, older first time parents with aging family members.

It was once normal for aging parents to rely on their adult children for help or for three generations to live under the same roof. But what worked in the past doesn’t necessarily work now. How we care for the youngest and the oldest members of our families has changed. What hasn’t changed, and I hope never will, are the ties that bind us to family. Our aging loved ones are likely to live elsewhere or have paid help. But family members, particularly adult daughters, will still be deeply involved in matters of care giving and advocacy for their aging loved ones. My guess is there may be less hands-on involvement, but  just as much stress and possibly even more guilt. What’s your guess? Are we better off or worse off than previous sandwich generations?

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3 Responses to “The New Sandwich Generation”

  1. Faith March 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    Interesting points. Your example of 106 and 88 are kind of extreme. Would you say Gen X is the majority of the sandwich generation? I was attracted to read your post because I just wrote one on why the millennial generation is so different.

    • judila416 March 19, 2013 at 12:54 am #

      Thank you for your interest. From personal experience, younger boomers (1960-66) are more likely to be sandwiched than GenX. I will be writing more about who makes up the sandwich generation in future posts.

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