What is the sandwich generation?

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sandwich generation
Yep, you're caught right in the middle of the family sandwich
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The sandwich generation consists primarily of post-middle aged women

You all know what a sandwich is. You have eaten plenty of them in your lifetime. A sandwich consists of two pieces of bread or a bun with all kinds of stuff “sandwiched” in between. That visual should give you an idea of what the “sandwich generation” is. Those who are plopped dead center into the sandwich generation are those who are taking care of their own families as well as their aging parents.

Some sandwich generationers are seniors themselves. If a couple waited late in life to have their children, about the time the child becomes a crazy teenager the parents may find themselves with the responsibility of taking care of their elderly parents. So you have a 55 year old woman, trying to cope with her 17 year old lunatic of a son and her grouchy, irascible 85 year old widowed father at the same time. Fun times!

The sandwichers are squeezed in between generations, just like baloney is squeezed between two pieces of bread, and are additionally squeezed for time, money and patience and sometimes hard-pressed to keep their sanity.  Often they are operating on a wing and a prayer as they are stretched thin.

People are living longer. Living to the age of 85 or older used to be a rarity but this it not so any more. The ranks of the elderly and of their children, who are the Baby Boomers, are mushrooming. Some elderly people are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves but the majority of them require special living aids and care - and that assistance is often provided by their children, who are parents themselves and still in the workforce.

The sandwich generation consists primarily of women in the 45- to 56-year-old age range who are multi-tasking, and sometimes not very well but they don’t have a choice, and charged with taking care of their parents as well as their own children. Often the elderly parents are in poor health and this must be dealt with.  The sandwicher becomes the uber caretaker as well as a nurse.These women spend a lot of money on their kids and a lot of time taking care of their parents, according to the National Longitudinal Survey done by the Department of Labor.

A study done by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) concluded that 44 percent of 45- to 55-year-olds have one child under the age of 21 still living with then and at least one living parent. The sandwichers are not a new phenomenon, although there may be more people in this situation than ever before because people (their parents) are living longer.

Historically, children and grandchildren have always helped care for the elderly people in their family. Often several generations lived together in the same home, although that practice is not as prevalent nowadays, A return to this type of living arrangement may make a resurgence out of necessity and pursuant to financial pressures.

Another interesting fact about those in the sandwich generation is that they may not have any siblings, because families got smaller in the last century. Alternatively, the sandwicher may only have one sibling, who doesn’t live in the vicinity so the onus of taking care of elderly parents is on one child rather than spread out among whole passel of kids, who shared the responsibility as it once was.

Sandwichers spend a lot of money, or approximately $10,000 a year, helping their parents and children, as well as approximately 1,350 hours a year assisting their children and parents. There are 20 million American women in the sandwich generation. They are responsible for intra-family monetary transactions of $18 billion each year and fulfill 2.4 billion hours assisting parents and children annually.

But then, you already knew that women ruled the world!


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