To those who never heard the term “sandwich generation,” it may seem like a food craze buzzword. In reality, the “sandwich generation” has nothing to do with food (or a craze). It refers to a group of people who are currently facing a situation that has been around since nearly the beginning of time.
The sandwich generation is comprised of adults who have some responsibility for both aging parents and their own children – those still living at home under their parents’ care or adult children who still require some type of support.
According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. Members of the sandwich generation are at an exciting time in their lives – often experiencing peak success in the workplace while watching their children become self-actualized adults. Unfortunately, they also face unique difficulties other generations do not.
Jill Luzier, a Masonic Village social worker, knows the sandwich generation well – not only through her experiences with families she’s helped transition to Masonic Village – but as a member. Jill assisted her parents with their move to Masonic Village at Elizabethtown in March 2017.
“Masonic Village gives families a sense of security because we educate them on what resources are available,” she said. “We have different levels of care for residents, ranging from retirement living to nursing care, home services and support groups for families.”
When asked what advice she has for the struggling generation, Jill said, “It’s okay to ask for help. Usually one or two people take the majority of the load, but that’s hard. You should delegate as much as you can, even if that delegation leads to relying on a retirement community and the services they offer.”
For parents who also have aging parents, Jill advises, “Trust your instincts. Trust you’ll be in the right place at the right time,” – a lesson she learned in 2015 when she was torn between helping her daughter as she started college and being with her mother during a time of illness.
If you are part of the sandwich generation, more of Jill’s recommendations include:
- Take time for yourself. Self-care matters at every age. As Jill says, “You’re not good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.” She encourages the sandwich generation to maintain interests outside of their families. Fortunately, technology has helped significantly with elder care. You can still do things from a distance using FaceTime, phone calls and more.
- Set aside savings. You may get so consumed providing for parents and children you neglect planning for your own retirement. It may seem like a long way away right now, but, eventually, your children will take your place. Continuing to put away money for retirement can help your children avoid financial burden. It also allows you to maintain a sense of independence.
- Practice being proactive and setting an example. Jill encourages families to be proactive and gradually build conversations around what parents want (particularly regarding living space and healthcare needs) as they age. For those currently in the sandwich generation, setting examples of what you would want from your children is important. Be prepared for the possibility of low energy levels and mobility issues in your parents, and also make sure finances and legal documents are in order.