Here’s a term you have probably never heard before: Sandwich Generation.
Visualisea sandwich. Peanut Butter sandwich, ham and cheese sandwich, chicken saladsandwich. Whatever you like. Now this sandwich represents a multi-generation family. The top piece of break of the sandwich represents the elderly parents of a home (the grandparents), the “filling” of the sandwich represents the middle aged adult parents, and the bottom piece of break represents the next generation of sons and daughters, aka, the grandchildren.
A Sandwich Generation is a generation of people who (middle aged - 40s and 50s )who are caring for their aging parents meanwhile support their own children.The Sandwich Generation is a growing trend caused by the rise of the number of aging parents and dependent adult children that is in many ways being impacted by the real estate market, especially in hot zones like Hong Kong where property prices are shockingly high.
HongKongers and even increasingly so with Americans, more and more families sharing one home - which means living with three or more generations under one roof -children, parents and grandparents all cohabiting together. There are two main factors driving this trend behind “Sandwich Generation”. One is economically-based and the other is cultural-based. Due to increasing rent prices, many families are forced to consolidate and live under one roof. The second factor can be attributed to the fact that it’s more common for Asian homes to span across multiple generations. In many cultures, multi-generational households are the norm, where children live at home until married and grandparents are respected as the head of the household.Due to economic and financial transitions in many parts of the world, moreadults are returning to live in the family home and aging parents being taken in to be cared for by their children. HongKongers are no stranger to this considering how expensive home prices are that even renting is not an easy feat for most people with average household incomes. The biggest concentrations of these multi-generation “Sandwich Homes” are found in high rent markets, where people simply cannot afford to live alone. It becomes a stressful situation, the financial and emotional cost of care for the elderly and young adults can be taxing.
How can you avoid Sandwich Generation Problems?
It’s never too early to start planning and making contingencies. Regardless of your age, there are steps you can take tohelp manage the needs of your aging parents and adult children if you are stuck in a sandwich generation problem:
Havean open conversation about it
Communication is important where are so many parties involved. Consider getting the family together for a meeting to talk, brainstorm solutions, figure out mutual ground to keep everyone happy, vent frustrations and concerns, and delegate tasks. It’s hard enough living with your parents as a full grown adult, and one can only imagine how much tougher it is when there are three or more generations together all under one roof. There can be power in numbers, but only when everyone takes on a role of responsibility, and learn to act their part cooperatively and respectfully. Numbers can work with you oragainst you, so how well can you steer the ship as a family? For the entire unit to function properly, every member needs to assume a set of tasks to help keep the crew afloat. Even if one person fails to do their part, it could mean demise for the rest of group. Every challenge is a chance for opportunities -opportunity for younger family members to assume new responsibilities and help lighten the workload of older family members, opportunity for teenagers and young adults in the household to earn extra income by doing work outside of the home, and opportunity for the family to become a closer unit in spite of the obstacles ahead.
You need to plan ahead when faced with financial struggles common in sandwich generation homes. Having a plan to save up should be a priority. It’s important to make a plan to save for retirement, stick to a revised budget and scale back on luxury spendings such as extravagant holidays and material possessions that are not necessary. You should be setting limits on your spending as a family, and learning to stay within the means as a shared family budget.