AARP has conducted a national survey to better understand the structure and dynamics of the contemporary "sandwiched" boomer family, and how members of the sandwich generation are coping with the pressures of caring for their parents and children. As defined for this study, the sandwich generation includes those who are between the ages of 45 and 55, and are managing both children and aging parents.
We also were interested in the attitudes and behaviors of this generation from a multicultural perspective. How do culture, gender, race, and income determine how sandwich generation boomers cope with family demands, especially for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans?
In conducting the study, AARP sought to answer four questions:
What are the characteristics of the sandwich generation?
How do its members feel about their responsibility?
How are they coping?
What are their primary coping mechanisms?
The results of the study are intriguing, and even surprising. They show a generation who tells us that family is the most important thing in their lives. Respondents said they welcome the opportunity to be involved in the care of their loved ones. At the same time, they do not wish to impose their own future needs on their children. They are generally comfortable with their family roles, and self-confident as they manage the dual responsibilities as parents and children.
In fact, In the Middle suggests that the so-called "Me Generation" is giving way to the "Us Generation." Contrary to popular culture portrayals of baby boomers as self-focused and materialistic, our survey shows that nearly half of boomers age 45-55 have children at home and parents who are still living. Nearly a quarter are caring for elders. It's interesting to note that while more than 80 percent report doing something for parents, many don't identify themselves as caregivers.
While many commentators believe that the sandwich generation is under tremendous stress, In the Middle finds that boomers feel more "squeezed" than stressed and, more importantly, that they are coping effectively. However, there are key distinctions in how, and how well, they cope, as well as differences in the types of care they give depending upon family dynamics, culture, ethnicity, and income.
Since this is the first study of its kind to provide an in-depth look at the sandwich generation from a multicultural perspective, AARP will play a leading role as a convener of new ideas to support this increasingly diverse segment of the population. In the Middle further realizes AARP's commitment to continue developing information, products, and services that are culturally relevant to all of its members.
You can read the full survey online at the AARP Research Center.