The sandwich generation

The term sandwich generation refers to a generation that is simultaneously caring for parents and children.

AUSTRALIANS give $22 billion a year to their adult children to help them get established, buy property, and tide them over tough times, a study reveals.  And they give another $1 billion a year to elderly parents . . . It shows parents spend about as much on their adult children as the federal government spends on the health system . . . Dr O'Dwyer, who presents the findings today at the Australian Institute of Family Studies conference, said whether people were rich or poor made no difference to the amount of practical help they gave their elderly parents. Men and women gave equal amounts of time, though doing different chores. However mothers and mothers-in-law in the oldest generation were given more help than fathers or fathers-in-law. (source)

There are two things of interest in this research - firstly, the amount of dollars Australian families are spending on their adult children (this doesn't not include the amount spent on their younger children) — $22 Billion (Aus/USA) . . . that is HUGE.  And that is in one year. This just blew me away. It would be interesting to know what the figure was 10 or 20 years ago, certainly not anywhere near $22 billion.  But it does demonstrate the amount that parents are willing to give to their adult children so they can avoid some of the struggles of buying property and the difficulties of getting through the hard times.  We only have a population of 22 million people - do the maths, so people are giving lots of $$$ to their children.


And to the other intereseting part of this research — I was pleased to read (as it is something that is often forgotten) — the amount of time and effort that women (and to some extend men) are putting into their own elderly parents.  It is often assumed that we are all “too busy” working to find the time, the fact is, the time is being found to care for both our adult children and our frail parents that need that extra care.   This also demonstrates that the importances of caring for one’s family is not lost or forgot (Dr O'Dwyer said family solidarity was still a strong norm within Australian society), but quietly happening in the suburbs across the country.

On many occasions it is the women who are doing this work—taking parents to doctors appointments, visiting (or phoning) to make sure they are ok, doing household chores, buying food, gardening, caring for the grandchildren — however I know some wonderful examples (my brother is one) that has shown complete dedication in the caring of an elderly person whilst busy working fulltime.  Yes, it can be exhausting, but these kind and caring people do it because they want to (love is the driving force), but often there is no one else to do it. It is a necessity in the end.

However the study did bring up some negatives, it was found that parents loved helping their adult children and found it a pleasure, however caring for elderly parents was seen as “an obligation” on occasions. ''Love runs downhill to the younger generation,'' Dr O'Dwyer said. ''People have a biological drive to give things to their children; it's more rewarding''.  This generation of carers are also likely to go into their own retirement caring for their parents as we all live a little longer.


I only hope that the tireless work undertaken by the Sandwich Generation is witnessed and remembered by the next generation and they see the importance’s of caring for their parents (people like us) and their own children. We want this family solidarity to continue on as it is the fabric that holds our society together.

Honour thy father and thy mother: 
that thy days may be long upon the land 
which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
Exodus 20:12


  1. My grown up children live only a couple of klms away and are always with in reach, we helped out when my oldest was buying a home and will do the same with our youngest but it works two ways, they all have careers and pets but no children so when they travel we have the little furries come to stay. My daughters dog visits for a day and a night every week because he was getting restless spending the week alone I look forward to him coming and he likes it too.

  2. I have found that to be true. I do look after my aging mother, but I find more satisfaction in helping my grown children. It shouldn't be that way, but often it is...

    1. Sometimes the elderly can become difficult and negative and that makes it difficult to remain cheerful looking after them. Whereas our children tend to have a more positive attitude and that does create more joy in helping them.

  3. Interesting! I was a little surprised at the information about helping parents as it often seems to me that children put their parents in nursing homes and care facilities and don't visit very often.
    And WOW - that's a lot of money!!

  4. I number of my friends have elderly parents and do a lot of running around to doctors appointments, buying groceries, gardening etc .. it can take up much of their weekends.

    But many do put their parents into nursing homes (as we have done) because we didn't have any choice, the care our parents (in particular those with dementia) cant be provided at home. But many spend many hours visiting (or like me, phoning) on a regular basis. Its just all done very quietly behind the scenes.

  5. My Mother (who is a widow) moved in with my husband and myself almost 9 years ago. The arrangement has been beneficial to all of us. Having my mother at home with us, allowed us to avoid putting our children in daycare (and avoid the expense associated with having three young children in daycare). For my Mother, she no longer had to carry the financial burden of maintaining her home on her very small income. We take her to her medical appointments and run errands for her. And living with us, she has greater access to doctors and specialists than she would back home. As the years have passed, the dynamic of the arrangement has shifted more to us becoming caregivers for my Mother (though she's still independent and in relatively good health). But, that's what we're here for and what we expected when we asked her to move in with us. I'd like to keep her in our home for as long as we're able to provide her with adequate care. And, I think it's wonderful that our children are growing up with their Grandmother very close by! Often times, grandparents live far away or as the case when I was a child, had already passed away.

    Mary Ellen
    The Working Home Keeper

  6. It made me think of this passage of scripture:

    2 Corinthians 12:14-15 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

  7. What I find though is that we take care of everyone’s needs before ours. Ours go on the get-around-to-it list. We’re good at taking care of them that we forget ourselves. We also have to take care of ourselves so that we can take better good care of those we love.


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