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Mid-Life: Sandwich Generation

What Does it Mean to be Living in the Sandwich Generation?

The reputedly self-absorbed baby-boomers, born between 1946 and 1954, were designated the 'Me Generation', have been called the new 'Sandwich Generation', squeezed between the responsibilities of caring for both their children and their parents or older relatives. As added pressure for the boomer generation, most women in this age group have also worked outside the home, earning income which is often necessary for the family to maintain its standard of living.  For women who continue to work, the sandwich has become a triple-decker, with job responsibilities piled on top of children and parents, to make the whole even harder to manage.

As this generation has aged and life expectancies have increased, terms have been developed to describe a variety of sandwich groups that have been recognized, including:

  • Traditional: those sandwiched between aging parents who need care and/or help and their own children;

  • Club Sandwich:  people in their 50s or 60s, sandwiched between aging parents, adult children and grandchildren, or those in their 30s and 40s with young children, aging parents, and grandparents. This term was coined by Carol Abaya;

  • Open-Faced:  anyone involved in elder care ~ coined by Carol Abaya.

People in this group, both men and women, who may be at the peak of their careers, may find themselves feeling guilty that they are not able to do more family caretaking. Many cannot take time off work to help. Women, in particular, are likely to assume caregiving responsibilities or to feel guilty about not doing so. In many ethnic communities, and in families of the 50's and 60's (that the boomer generation grew up in), there were strong traditions of family care for aging parents and of close involvement with children. Indeed, there are many obvious benefits in such traditions, and people are reluctant to jeopardize family continuity and strengths. The demands of a modern life-style require creative solutions and cooperation from everybody. Workplace flexibility can be a tremendous support to sandwich generation families, and many people have negotiated innovative solutions with their employers to accommodate the demands of this phase of their lives.


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