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The Sandwich Generation: Adult Children Caring for Aging Parents

Updated on March 28, 2013

What Is the Sandwich Generation?

The term "sandwich generation" is relatively new to the American scene, although the situation it describes has existed to varying degrees for decades. The sandwich generation refers to those people who find themselves sandwiched in between care of their children and either one or both of their parents.

Carol Abaya, a self-described pioneer in finding her way through the ups and downs of the sandwich generation has coined two additional "sandwich" phrases: 1.) Club Sandwich--refers to those people in their 50s and 60s who are sandwiched in between their aging parents, adult children and grandchildren or those in their 30s and 40s who find themselves between young children and aging parents and grandparents and 2.) Open-Faced--refers to anyone else involved in care of the aging.

Issues facing those of the sandwich generation range from financial considerations to emotional and social changes. The situation need not be negative; there are benefits to be had for all involved, including the social interaction of multiple generations. Whether positive, negative, or somewhere in between, the issues to be handled will likely be complex and varied.

A Complicated Life

Parenting children or providing care for an aging or ill parent are each time, labor and energy-intensive undertakings. Combining these two activities is stressful, even in the best of situations. Even so, some 20 million Americans are an active part of the sandwich generation and live in an inter-generational situation.

The melding of cultures can offer learning opportunities for everyone is this generational sandwich, but is often also a source of great stress, particularly for the "caregiver in the middle." Imagine dealing with teen angst, senior memory impairments and working toward a promotion at the same time!

Financial concerns may come from all directions. You may be in the midst of saving for your children's college education when your parents can suddenly no longer live on their own.

Infinite Combinations

Consider the infinite combinations possible with the blended families today. Consider how many more sandwich family situations may be in the offing in America with the baby boomer generation just beginning to hit their retirement years.

What if a parent or parents of both relationship partners requires some sort of assistance or supervision? If the senior person has the larger residence, does the "sandwich" family leave their home to live in the larger residence? Does money for college funds get diverted to care for senior family members?

Are senior family members able to provide child care while the "sandwich" family members work? Do all family members combine financial assets or do finances remain separate? Will financial aid be available?

Inter-generational families have been the norm in other cultures but not so in America. Americans cherish their independence. American culture, which prizes youth above wisdom, is being exposed to opportunities to embrace the senior generation and its experience-born lessons.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Aslanlight, that would make a great hub topic, too! I am sure many people the world over are finding themselves in the same dilemma as American families. Thanks for dropping by.

    • aslanlight profile image

      aslanlight 6 years ago from England

      The sandwich generation isn't exclusive to America. I thought the phrase referred to the fact that so many people these days are on fast food diets! Lol

      You write well.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Thank you, Simone. And a pickle is a good analogy for those who find themselves in the "sandwich" situation.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      The sandwich generation sure is in a pickle with their parents - and you've created a great Hub on the subject! Voted up :D