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The "Sandwich Generation"

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Kimberly Blackford by Kimberly Blackford

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Many people are finding themselves locked in the “sandwich generation.” The term was created to describe family members who are providing assistance to their children as well as their aging parents and attempting to save for their own retirement. Members of the Sandwich Generation are typically 35 to 54 years old, and are a part of all cultures and ethnicities of the American family. This demographic was created only in the recent years and has been steadily increasing. Lifespans have become much longer than they were in the past, so there has developed more of a need for elderly care. Additionally, fresh college graduates have a tendency to return home until they can find employment in this increasing difficult economy. These situations can cause quite an emotional and financial strain on the family members that are “sandwiched” between the two generations.

It can be a hard struggle to handle costs for aging parents, while simultaneously supporting your younger and adult children. Reports show that there are about 10 million Americans who find themselves in this predicament. Nursing homes and in-home care can be quite expensive for the elderly. Similarly, multiple property costs and the effects of the recession can weigh heavily on the checkbook. These financial hardships cause many families to explore the option of a multiple generational household.

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Several generations living under the same roof can have its benefits as well as some downfalls. The older family members enjoy the companionship and personal care they receive when they move in with their younger family members. Additionally, it is an effective way to manage tough financial situations. It cuts costs dramatically for the family overall with the absence of another home payment, nursing home or in-home care. Furthermore, the adult children that move back home can help with caring for their grandparents, while the sandwich generation focuses on providing the majority of financial support. Younger children who are willing to help with their grandparents should be encouraged to do so as well. However, be careful not to pressure the little ones to be involved with caring for the grandparents to avoid resentment from the child. On the other hand, live-in grandparents can be incredibly helpful for watching younger children while the parents are at work and therefore save on childcare expenses. The key for all the generations harmoniously living together is respect for everyone’s personal space and feelings.

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With households consisting of family members of multiple generations, personal space often becomes an issue. Since more homes are accommodating a larger amount of family members, it is very important they every individual can still have some space of their own. To avoid feeling cramped, section off specific areas to help them maintain a level of dignity and privacy. An elderly parent who is physically or mentally impaired can produce more stress when moving in and living with working adults. If this becomes a problem, there are home care services that can assist with an aide to help the elderly for a few hours several times a week.

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Families should take these instances into consideration when remodeling and purchasing homes and properties. In many cases, the combined family living arrangement can last as long as ten years. Today’s homebuilders are noticing this trend and integrating these family shifts into their building plans. Floor plans are being designed with additional bedrooms and baths for more comfort with multiple family members. There are many floor plans that include two master suites, each with its own luxurious bathroom and closet space. Some homes with two-car garages can easily be altered to a one-car garage design with a guest room instead. Other arrangements include a fully functional guest suite that features a kitchenette area, living room, full bath and a bedroom that is separate from the rest of the home. These living areas are sometimes referred to as in-law suites and are just like having an apartment within your larger house. Some homeowners that have two large living areas will choose to install a kitchenette in the living room that is near an extra bedroom. Another popular choice for homeowners that have plenty of land is to build an apartment garage close by their existing home. This provides a completely separate building for the live-in relative as well as provides additional parking and storage space. All of these options help provide extra privacy and independence for live-in relatives.

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Over 25% of American families partake in this multi-generational living arrangement. Economic factors, housing costs and the need for personal care have forced many people to consider sharing home space. Although multiple generations living under one roof can be challenging, many families discover that they become happier individuals by enjoying the company of their elders as well as the younger generation of their family at the same time.

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