Stuck Between Children and Parents: the Sandwich Generation

Stuck Between Children and Parents: the Sandwich Generation

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Sandwich Generation includes seniors between 45 and 65, who look after their children, who are young adults and not entirely self-sufficient and their parents, who are increasingly dependent. This phenomenon is not trivial, since it has been observed the world over.

This family situation is due to a number of factors. First, because people live longer, insurance and welfare schemes have evolved, and the standard of living and comfort have increased. Seniors live longer and longer, better and better, but as from the age of 70, they start losing their autonomy (See our article: Seniors’Stages of Life) and become dependent on their children.

The other factors concern young adults, the children of the Sandwich Generation: studies last longer, the first jobs are not permanent, rents are getting high in bigger cities, children get married and have children later, and therefore form a household later, etc. They still need the help of their parents even though they have started working.

How Do Europeans Look After Their Parents?

The 50-year-old’s of the years 2000, born just after the Second World War, are the first to find themselves massively in an intermediate generational position: between old parents potentially requesting help and adult children who are still not self-sufficient. Approximately half of the 50-year-olds are in this “Sandwich” situation.

According to the SHARE survey (Survey of Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe), over two thirds of Europeans aged 50 to 59, still have at least one living parent or parent-in-law. 45% of Europeans live on less than 5 km away from their closest ascendant and 58% are in contact several times a week. In Italy and Spain, a fifth of the 50-year-olds live in the same housing or the same building as an old parent. Hence, half of them have daily contacts. In the North, it is less than 2%.

Even if they don’t live under the same roof or less than 5 km away from their elders, a greater share of young seniors from northern European countries assist their parents: over 40% in Denmark and Sweden and close to 25% in Spain and Greece.

Europe : care provided to parents
Source: SHARE 2004, exploitation CNAV / Scope: 50 to 59-year-old individuals having taken part in the drop-off

Still, when you look and the nature of the help, the seniors from the South are the ones who provide daily care to their parents the most: personal care, getting dressed, getting in and out of bed, personal hygiene, etc. These rates are higher in Italy and Spain and lower in the North where assistance is provided on an ad hoc basis, letting public social services providing daily care. The young seniors from northern countries consider that homemaking and personal care should come mainly from the State. While in Southern countries (and particularly in Greece), they consider that help should rather come from the family. All countries agreed that financial assistance should come from the State.


Europe : seniors care
Source: SHARE 2004, exploitation CNAV / Scope: 50 to 59-year-old individuals having taken part in the drop-off

Sources (French language):
– Seniosphère Conseil
– Couples et familles: Génération Sandwich
– Cairn Info : Les quinquagénaires européens et leurs parents, de la famille ou de l’État, qui doit s’occuper des ascendants ? Jim Ogg & Sylvie Renaut, pages 28-39.

Recommended content :

How do people aged 55 and over spend their money?

Middle-aged teenagers, fantasy or reality?