The Changing Face of the Sandwich Generation (Which One are You?)

The term “sandwich generation” is one you’ve no doubt heard before, and if you’re reading this you’re likely also a member of its pack: adults who are sandwiched in between the actual parenting of their own children while at the same time responsible for the full-time care of their aging or elderly parents.

It’s a populace so commonplace that in 2006, the term was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Yet the face of the original generation, initially baby boomers of the 1980s whose parents were living longer thanks to medical and pharmaceutical advances, is changing as it has aged out of the original, boomer generation. Now there is updated terminology being used to describe it.

Read on to see which name best describes your situation, or that of someone you know:

Original Sandwich

Female baby boomers in their 30s and 40s who were responsible for the care of their own young or school-aged children, as well as for their jobs, households, and their aging parents (both biological and by marriage). The elderly parents may have even lived in the caregiver’s household, or they lived nearby.

Traditional Sandwich

Similar to the original, only now somewhat more inclusive of either parents’ sandwiched responsibilities and referring to a broader age range within the nuclear family, as more and more people delay marriage and child-rearing. The sandwiched parents may have children of any age, from youngsters to college-aged kids, still requiring assistance.

Club Sandwich

This is the label for when the family stacks up even further, now including grandparents and even grandchildren in the mix. A parent, usually between the ages of 50–60, may be assisting his or her adult children through financial or physical means (such as helping out with the care of the grandchildren), while still being responsible for overseeing the care of their own elderly mom or dad—whether in home or nearby.

Also included are younger parents (30s–40s) who are raising their small or young children while assisting with the care of their own grandparents.

Most of the time, these sandwiched parents are still working in order to try and put away money for their own futures, while struggling to provide assistance to the generations on both sides.

It’s not unheard of for these parents to even themselves be skirting the age of senior citizenship.

Open-Faced Sandwich

Anyone of any age who has at some point in time been responsible for the wellbeing of an elderly relative. (Studies show this may be up to 25% of the population.) One example is college-aged kids who live with their grandparents in order to assist in their care, allowing their own parents to better focus on work and other children, still living at home.

Regardless of the specific classification, all sandwich generation caretakers face the same hurdles: stress, financial and emotional burdening, and a sense of being all alone in their struggles.

Do you know a person or are you yourself someone who fits into any of the above caretaking categories? Please get in touch so that we may begin a helpful dialogue.

All the best,

Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.


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