Tens of millions of Americans today are known as the Sandwich Generation -- sandwiched between caring for both their children and aging relatives, typically their parents. They are generally in their 40s and 50s, with most working full time while trying to meet the demands of being a caregiver.
A 2014 Families and Work Institute’s Older Adult Caregiver Study of 1,050 adults in the U.S. found 53 percent to be caring for a relative 65 years of age or older. Sixty-one percent said they have been providing that care for an adult 50 or older in the past five years.
With more people living longer than ever before and old-age dependency ratios increasing across the globe, the Sandwich Generation is going to continue to grow.
Here are five things you need to know about the Sandwich Generation.
The Sandwich Generation is Growing
A Pew Research Center study found almost half of all adults in their 40s and 50s have at least one parent age 65 or older, while also raising a young child or helping to financially support a child age 18 or older. The Sandwich Population is growing, as the number of people over the age of 65 is set to double over the next 25 years. With Baby Boomers increasingly moving into retirement age, and living longer, more middle-aged men and women will find themselves sandwiched between their children and their aging parents. By 2035, more than 11 billion people, approximately 13 percent of the population, will be over age 65.
Being Sandwiched Impacts Work and Wallets
The Pew Research study also found one in seven middle-aged adults provides financial support to both a child and their aging parent. FWI’s 2014 study notes two-thirds of caregivers are employed while providing elder care, and more than 1 in 4 caregivers count on their employers to be flexible in order to allow them to balance caregiving and work responsibilities.
Learn More About How Companies Can Support Sandwich Generation Employees
Most Caregivers Make Career Adjustments
For caregivers, trying to maintain a career and tend to both an aging relative and their children can be a struggle when it comes to managing both. In order to handle these responsibilities, while continuing to work, they are often forced to make adjustments in their careers, such as turning down a promotion, scaling back their hours or even leaving their jobs. A MetLife study of Working Caregivers and Employer Health Care Costs found employees caring for elderly relatives often miss days of work. The study also found caregivers “were more likely to report negative influences of personal life on their work” than non-caregivers.” For those who reported to have quit their jobs to provide care for an elderly relative, results of the Families and Work Institute’s Study indicated they made that decision because their employers weren’t flexible enough to allow them to do both.
Find Out How to Manage Sandwich Generation Stress
Businesses Are Feeling the Impact
Employers are facing estimated costs of $17.1 billion to $33.6 billion annually attributed to caregiving, according to the MetLife Study. Absenteeism accounted for $5.1 billion, employees shifting from full-time to part-time roles accounted for $4.8 billion, $6.6 billion to replace employees who left and $6.3 billion for workday interruptions. Additionally, the study found an 8 percent differential in increased healthcare costs between employees caring for an elderly relative and those who are not.
Women Are Heavily Affected
While this generation has no gender bias - both men and women are impacted - it’s women who are more heavily affected by caring for both an aging parent and raising their family, according to the Family Wealth Advisors Council of Women in Wealth “Wow Study.” The study revealed the aging population and elder care needs are the most “significant challenge” women will face in the coming years. The American Psychological Association’s 2007 Stress in America Survey shows Sandwich Generation mothers feel more stress than any other age group, while trying to balance caring for both their children and aging parents. The survey also shows that while two in five men and women in this generation feel overextended, more women than men indicated they experienced extreme stress.