The Sandwich Generation
Robert Lipsyte, journalist and author of In the Country of Illness
Anne-Marie Johnson, actress
Abigail Trafford, Washington Post columnist and author of My Time
Robert Kane, MD, author of It Shouldn't Be This Way
The sandwich generation. People performing the balancing act of caring for both their children and their aging parents. (And no doubt trying to maintain their own sanity.)
In 25 years, it is estimated there will be 60 million Americans between the ages of 66 and 84. Most of them will need care of some sort. And the personal becomes the political. Dr. Kane says, "We need to create creative indignation." Families are the backbone of long-term care, and without it, the system would collapse entirely.
Still, there is a toll. There are emotional, psychological and financial demands on caregivers - from both the aging parents and young children. And Kane calls it like he sees it. "Let's be honest. When we say 'caregivers', we mean women!"
There's also a disparity in how disability is viewed in young people versus the elderly. For young people, it has become a civil rights issue. They will not be denied access to services and opportunities. With older people, however, there is a sense of resignation that it's inevitable. With that, there seems to be reluctance to expend too much time, energy or money to invest in their needs.
As the older population becomes a strong political force, public policy is changing to support family care and the needs of caregivers. There may be a gradual rise in multiple generations living together. Washington Post columnist Abigail Trafford is part of what she terms a "club" sandwich. She's got grown children, young grandchildren, and a 95-year-old stepmother, all of whom are looking out for each other.
As host Alan Rosenberg points out, by negotiating changes in their parents' quality of life, the sandwich generation can make a great impact for themselves.