Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Sandwich Generation

Dorothy Miller coined the phrase “Sandwich Generation” which originally used to describe women in their 30’s and 40’s sandwiched between their young kids, mates, employers and aging parents.  While the term still refers to this demanding juggling act, the demographics have changed.  Today this generation is juggling many responsibilities; including having to make employment choices and redirect financial resources as a result of caring responsibilities.  According to Susan Feldman, director of the Healthy Ageing Research Unit at Monash University, “that as our population ages and women increasingly delay having children until their 30’s and 40’s; we’ve more likely to find ourselves juggling the school run and play dates as our parents start needing our help.  Factor in that women are more likely to be working, and less likely to have extended family around them, it’s little wonder so many are left feeling like the proverbial meat in the generational sandwich” From this study released in July 2012   published in the Sydney Morning Herald, the value put on supporting this intergenerational transfer of worth was valued at $53 billion in terms of time and money here in Australia.

Joan Hughes former CEO of Carers Australia points out that “many women caught in between the generations are in the prime of their career, and are often forced to cut back on paid work or quit altogether – with dire financial consequences.  “Once you’re out of the workforce you start to use up any savings you might have, because caring can be very expensive, and you end up in the Centrelink system”.

The increase of older adults caring for aging parents and adult children has increased to 52% in 2000 according to the American Journal of Financial Service Professionals and has caused a financial and emotional squeeze.  Trying to cope simultaneously with the cost of caring for aging parents while you help your children pay for college or launch careers, while funding your own retirement, you’re in this sandwich generation.  According to one report by American Psychological Association 40% of those aged between 35-54 report extreme levels of stress and this is taking a toll on personal relationships as well as on their own well being.   Here in Australia it’s estimated between 10,000 and 21,000 Australians with children under the age of 15 also provide ongoing care to their parents.  The study also found that 93% cared for their elderly parents out of love, but 70% admitted they were also motivated by obligation.  Similar to the finding from the American Psychological Association report the Australian study of Sandwich Generation Women found that almost half didn’t receive enough practical or emotional support which would indicate a similar personal toll on their relationships and well being.

Below are some common stressors felt by those caught in this Sandwich Generation.
  • How do I split my time between caring for my children and caring for my parents
  • How do I find the time for my marriage
  • How do I keep the generational peace between my children and my elder parents
  • How do I find the resources that I need to care for myself and my love ones.
  • How do I combat my feelings of isolation
  • Guilt, for not having enough time to accomplish all that “should be” doing
So what can be done to alleviate the stress that women are currently feeling, stuck in this sandwich.  Here are some helpful tips but I would be interested to hear what other suggestions you may have so click on the link below to send your feedback.

Helpful tips

  • Make sure all legal documents are in place before you need them.
  • Find a financial advice to develop and emergency fund.
  • Hold a family meeting to discuss care giving tasks that need to be accomplished each week.