The Sandwich Generation

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The changing nature of families is putting real pressure on middle aged adults who are having to support more than one generation. These are the members of the so-called sandwich generation. Increased longevity means that retirees are more likely to run out of money before the end of their life and turn to their offspring for help. Children who struggle with debt, failed relationships or single parenthood call on their parents in adulthood for financial support. In these situations nobody wins. Transferring debt between generations doesn’t solve the problem, it just shifts the burden of debt and drags others down. Members of the sandwich generation can find themselves working longer hours, making significant sacrifices in their lifestyle, and plunging further into debt. Along with this can come depression, health problems and loss of enjoyment of life. It is not just money that is demanded by older and younger generations, it can also be time and emotional support. Women, in particular, can find themselves providing care out of work hours to parents, children and grandchildren.

When the term ‘sandwich generation’ was coined back in the 1980’s, its members comprised baby boomers. Now, thirty years later, it is the children of the baby boomers who are stuck in the middle. As baby boomers continue to age, the burden on their children will become increasingly heavy. However, a survey done in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre, a social research organisation based in Washington, USA, showed that while about 20% of middle aged adults provided financial support to their parents, around 73% provided support to children aged over 18 and this percentage has been rising. Society demands that we care for the young and the old, but the needs of all generations need to be kept in balance by sometimes saying no.

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