We hear all the time about the change in the Canadian population. With the Baby Boomers getting into their 60s and 70s, we as a whole are getting older. Because of the amazing things we’ve been able to accomplish with medicine, our life expectancy is going up! Now, living into your 80s and 90s is almost the norm. What this is creating, it a whole new type of sandwich generation and a change in family dynamics that we are just starting to understand.
The sandwich generation classically means a person who becomes a caregiver to a parent as well as small children. The person in the middle is the sandwich and are caring for the generation above and the generation below. This was commonly a person in their 40s. Their kids were between five and 15. They still required lots of care from their parents. These people in their 40s also had parents in their 60s and 70s. If a parent or parents become ill, it places the child in another caregiving position.
What I have started to see in the last couple of years, has been the arrival of a new sandwich. With people living into their 80s and 90s, the kids in their 60s and 70s are now becoming caregivers to older parents. The top of the sandwich has moved up a layer. Family with four generations still getting together on holidays is becoming more common. Less of the exception and more of the rule. My grandmother lived to 88 and had 15 great-grandchildren! 15!
The bottom of the sandwich is now not the children but the GRANDCHILDREN. Being a grandparent is an amazing gift. With the increasing costs of day care and cost of living, grandparents are being relied on more and more to help with child rearing. Daycare done by grandparents is one of the biggest sources of volunteering in our economy. It has huge implications and plays a big role!
It creates a unique circumstance in which the family dynamic has moved up a layer. Grandparents are now being more responsible for helping their kids raise their grandkids (and WANT to don’t get me wrong) and have older parents with declining health. It can be a lot of work.
As we get older, our energy level dips. For some more than others. Raising little ones is a lot of work! Taking care of little ones during the day and helping an ailing parent at night can be not only tiring, but extremely stressful. It can be overwhelming. It can be hard to say as much because you want to help your child and you love your grandkids.
For the classic sandwich generation definition, a big concern is caregiver burnout. There can be no reprieve and this can lead to depression and anxiety. As a grandparent, there is a different set of rules and relationships exist. That being said, it can still be extremely overwhelming. It can lead to a lot of stress. Most often however, this is a blessing. Grandparents enjoy being part of their grandchildren’s lives and it helps young couples get on their feet with little ones.
If you are a grandparent who sometimes can get stressed and overwhelmed by the demands of caring for parents and grandchildren, here are two fundamental tips to keep yourself healthy.
1. Keep an open line of communication. With life being so hectic, the people around you are so focused on their busy lives, they don’t stop to think about its impact on you. It isn’t out of malice. It is a normal consequence of being stretched too thin and often sleep deprived. Talk to your kids and if the demands are becoming too hectic, ask to pull up the reigns. Even if it is just temporarily
2. Exercise! Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your energy levels up and your body ready to face the day. Exercise has wonderful benefits for your mood, your energy throughout the day, and the strength your body has to keep up with those busy toddlers. Carve out some time to get your workout in. Thirty minutes of movement can do wonders for your stress level and your state of mind.
Often times when we need help, we hesitate to ask. It’s important to keep that communication open. Reflect on what you need and then ask for assistance if necessary.
This new sandwich generation may cause some changes in dynamics within the family unit. Comment below if you can relate to any of the things we talked about above. We would love to hear from you!
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How about our article on challenging the “normal” parts of the aging process?