Caregiving Boomers Sandwiched Between Young and Old

From the WebMD Archives

July 11, 2001 (Washington) -- Baby-boomer Americans aged 45-55 are a squeezed "sandwich generation," caring for both their children and older relatives, according to a new survey.

So much for the stereotype of the self-absorbed boomer, according to the report from AARP. "For those in the sandwich, the 'Me Generation' has become the 'Us Generation,'" it states.

AARP conducted the survey in March via telephone interviews with more than 2,300 randomly selected Americans.

The group said it began the survey thinking that boomers would feel "enormously burdened" by their caregiving duties. But the results actually showed they are "less stressed, more self-assured, and more at ease in their roles than not," AARP said.

More than seven in 10 felt that they could comfortably handle their family duties without feeling stressed by family needs.

Nearly three-fourths of those who care for older relatives said it brings them closer to them, and half said their experience makes them more optimistic about their own old age.

Although white Americans make up more than 70% of the boomer population, they are the least likely to care for older adults. According to the survey, just 19% of whites participate in caring for older relatives, compared to 28% of African Americans, 34% of Hispanic Americans, and 42% of Asian Americans.

Although Asian Americans are the most likely to be caregivers, they also reported feeling the most guilt that they weren't doing enough to help. By contrast, whites felt the least guilt among the four racial groups.

The report said that whites are the most likely to live only with a spouse, without children or parents in the household.

Results of the survey offer insights into family and caregiving patterns among various boomer groups. It reinforces the familiar finding, for example, that women are more likely than men to shoulder caregiving responsibilities.

Asian Americans and African Americans reported the most stress related to their caregiving responsibilities. Asian Americans are most likely to care for relatives between different continents, while African Americans are the most likely to have had a family death in the past year.

As for Hispanic Americans, they reported having the most children and were the most likely to have both parents living.

Overall, most in the sandwich generation (69%) rejected the idea that their children should be expected to take care of them in their old age. Hispanic and Asian Americans were the most likely to expect future care from their children.

Lower-income Americans also felt more stressed about their responsibilities and were less able to get time off work to help.

"Social and government institutions need to find ways to provide caregiver support to sandwich generation families, especially with life expectancy continuing to increase," Bill Novelli, executive director of AARP, tells WebMD.

The group says that greater workplace flexibility is needed to allow sandwich generation Americans greater opportunity to do family caregiving. It also supports steps such as adding a Medicare drug benefit for older Americans.