Senior Moments: The ‘Club Sandwich’ Generation

(ROCKWALL, TX – August 27, 2015) As we dance into our Golden Years with the Beatles singing in our heads, many seniors look forward to retiring and traveling the world. But even the best made plans can hit a bump in the road.

Welcome to the SandwichGeneration! This phrase was coined in 1981 by Dorothy Miller, a social worker who noticed that the caretaking of children and parents was occurring more often in families.

Carol Abaya, who lectures about the Sandwich Generation, recently identified the Club Sandwich, which refers to three generations of caretaking in a family. This group is usually in their 30s and 40s, caring for young kids, aging parents and grandparents.

So what are the factors that create a Sandwich Generation? First, many young adults live at home while attending college. They continue living with their parents after graduation. They find it difficult to land a job utilizing their degree, so they accept a job with lesser pay, and cannot afford to move out on their own.

Then there are the young adults who do not attend college, but have a job and still live with their parents. This generation of late teens and early 20’s are comfortable living at home.

Another scenario: aging parents with health issues in need of quality caretakers. Children feel that the best care for their parents is to live with them. The idea of putting Mom or Dad in an assisted living situation is overwhelming. Therefore, the parent is taken into the child’s home.

Due to financial or health reasons, grandparents are also sandwiched between caring for grandkids that live in the home with or without the parent and their aging parent.

According to the US Census Bureau, middle aged Americans – Baby Boomers – are currently caring for at least one child or parent under the same roof. While the living arrangements and caretaking can be stressful, there are positives. There can be a renewed sharing of family values. I‘ve seen relationships healed between the child and aging parent. Parents are more connected to day-to-day activities and feel purposeful. Sharing memories of years gone by with the parent or grandparent helps memorialize those moments and creates new memories.

Housing arrangements have to be adjusted. Sometimes adding on to the home is an option and makes the most sense financially. As a realtor, I’ve been helping families purchase homes with a guest house or separate entrance for the parent. Converting outbuildings to living quarters is also popular. To prepare for a blended family situation, ask yourself:

  • What is the current state of my parents’ physical and mental health?
  • What are my children’s needs? Do I expect them to return to the nest?
  • What are my spouse’s needs? Is my marriage strong enough to withstand encroachments upon our time and privacy?
  • How will this affect my job? My spouse’s job? Who can run errands and take my loved one to doctor’s appointments?
  • Is my home large enough to offer privacy? Do we need to add provisions for handicapped accessibility?
  • Is there a sibling who will share the responsibility of caring for parents?

Once we honestly answer these questions, we can start preparing for our future and alleviate surprises of the Sandwich Generation.

In my next article, we’ll talk about grandparenting – a subject near and dear to my heart. We have 10 grandchildren and we just celebrated the birth of our first great granddaughter.

Karen Straughan

By Rockwall resident Karen Straughan, Senior Real Estate Specialist. Email her at

 More Senior Moments:

Senior Moments: Growing older doesn’t have to mean getting old