What Is the Sandwich Generation and What Are Their Challenges?

It used to be the “Generation Gap” that was blamed for a lot of problems that parents faced and for the many conflicts and lack of understanding between children and parents. Then there is the concept of The Sandwich Generation where parents have the dual responsibility of caring not only for their own children but also have to look after aging or infirm (or both) parents.

There are obvious challenges facing the sandwich generation of parents who may have the traditional situation of having to care for growing children and at the same time look after indigent and/or infirm parents. Some parents may have the additional responsibility of having to look after adult children, perhaps unemployed, who may have their own small children, which can add to the burden of looking after aged parents.

It may be intergenerational households or other types of family systems, but the situation of the parents as being caregivers for younger as well as older generations can throw up some very significant challenges.

With most western countries now having an aging population the phenomenon of the sandwich generation is actually increasing and becoming more common.

According to some estimates, as much as 22% of the American population can be classified as being of the sandwich generation and that the average woman spends about 17 years raising her kids and about 18 years helping aging parents.

The challenges faced by the sandwich generation are many:

 Financial Stress

The financial stress of having to care for dependent children as well as aging parents who may not be financially self sufficient is obvious. Aging individuals typically have health problems or ailments and may need assistance carrying on daily functions which can put a lot of financial pressure on families even if the aging parents do not live in the same home. Having to oversee treatment, medications and so on can be stressful in financial as well as logistical terms.

Emotional Stress

Dividing time and resources between children and aging parents can also be another challenge that parents face. Balancing needs of children with those of the parents and finding time of both can be challenging and even stressful.

Other Challenges

Parents may find that their own plans of travel after retirement, having a secure old age income and so on can seem imperiled by the situation. In practical everyday matters, there could be problems regarding extra household chores and so on to deal with as well.


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