Sociologists like to lump Americans into generations, and we’ve become quite familiar with a handful.
There is the silent generation, generally encompassing those born up to 1945. Then we we have the baby boomers, roughly from 1946 to 1964. Generation X members were born from 1965 through the ‘70s. The so-called millennials (or Generation Y) go roughly from 1980 to 1995, while those born after that are often referred to as Generation Z, or centennials.
Interwoven into those groups is another you don’t often hear as much about: the “sandwich generation.” They’ve got deep concerns coming and going, and with people living longer in Southern Maryland and elsewhere, there will be more to worry about as time goes by.
“Caught between kids and aging parents, the sandwich generation worries more than most Americans their age about how they’ll afford their own care as they grow older. But most aren’t doing much to get ready,” wrote Lauran Neergaard, a medical reporter for more than 30 years specializing in elder care issues.
Almost one in 10 Americans age 40 and older are in the “sandwich” category, Neergaard reported. They’re supporting a child while providing regular care for an older loved one, according to a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Worse, another 8% may become double-caregivers in the next five years because of declining health of an older relative or close friend.
Most disturbing, the poll found a majority of Americans 40 and older — 54% — have done almost no planning to be ready for long-term care.
The AP poll “found the sandwich generation no more likely than other middle-aged adults to be planning and saving, possibly because of time or resources,” Neergaard reported.
That’s despite government figures suggesting that at as soon as age 65, almost seven in 10 Americans will need some long-term care — from a relative, home aide, assisted living or nursing home.
Only a third of those polled said they are setting aside money for such care.
That’s even though Medicare doesn’t pay for the most common types of long-term care, and a nursing home can easily cost more than $90,000 or $100,000 a year,” Neergaard wrote.
Another major factor: “The squeeze isn’t ending as children grow up,” Neergaard reported. “Among currently sandwiched parents, 29% have adult children living at home, the poll found. Others are providing adult children with financial assistance, meaning some are still sandwiched even after their children leave the nest.”
Meanwhile, many in the sandwich generation must hang onto their jobs and achieve financial security despite caregiving demands. The squeeze comes from both older and younger family members.
The elderly often need transportation, usually to get to doctor appointments; in-home services, such as meals and personal care; and finding affordable housing or making age-friendly home modifications. Not to mention moral and emotional support, which also costs caregivers in terms of time.
And finding those services to help the elderly “age in place” by staying at home isn’t always easy. AARP offers a “livability index” and the National Association for Area Agencies runs an Eldercare Locator to help people find local resources. The locator can be reached at www.eldercare.acl.gov and 1-800-677-1116.
Southern Maryland has a number of elder care facilities and communities, and since Baby Boomers are bringing their relative wealth and political power into that next phase of life, you can bet those facilities will continue to advance and improve.
But in the meantime, there’s still much to think about. The elder care locator got an average of more than 22,000 requests a month, which suggests just how much worry weighs down on the sandwich generation.