Feel like a sandwich?

No, I am not referring to crisp lettuce and tomato encapsulated between two slices of still warm wholemeal, or a piping hot ham and tomato toastie with cheese oozing out the middle, but rather I am referring to your current lifestyle.

Some time back, I penned an article for this blog ‘Who hit the pause button on retirement’.


In that article, I explored a recent observation I had made about the number of grandparents looking after young children in a local park, and how those of us approaching retirement today often find ourselves playing the role of ‘carer for the young and old’.

You see, for those of us in our 50’s and 60’s, we have become the ‘sandwich generation’. We are caught between our children and their growing families, and in many cases, our own parents who are approaching their twilight years.

As we approach or enter retirement, many of us still have one or both parents alive. This is a product of an increasing life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, Australia ranks 4th in the world (falling closely behind Japan, Switzerland and Singapore) for having the longest average life expectancy.

The fact today’s retirees still have parents living is in stark contrast to previous generations.

And, with the increasing pressure on young families to have two incomes simply to be able to afford to enjoy the lifestyle they desire, coupled with the spiralling costs of child care, today’s 50 and 60 years olds are also becoming the part-time or even full-time carers of their grandchildren.

So, where does this leave today’s ‘young’ retirees?

They find themselves providing increasing care for the aged parents, whose needs for assistance will only increase with age and, at the same time they are spending time caring for their grandchildren, even if that is just picking them up and providing after-school care.

I think it is fair to say that most grandparents love to spend time with their grandchildren – watching them grow and learning to master new skills. But, this can be exhausting, particularly as grandparents start to age themselves.

When coupled with caring for older parents, that can be even more demanding.

Recently, my wife, Kerry has found herself in this very situation. Her parents had returned from a cruise to PNG. Her father had always wanted to revisit the country he spent his early years. Unfortunately, he picked up an infection and on returning home, has spent the past two weeks in hospital including a couple of days in intensive care. Fortunately, he is now on the mend.

But, apart from the emotional strain of an ill father, my wife has been visiting the hospital with her mother most days. When situations like this arise, life is put ‘on hold’.

As far as my wife is concerned, she would not have it any other way. She enjoys spending time with her parents and would do anything for them. However, as her father returns home, are there things that can be done, or services that can be accessed to ease the load?

Perhaps, for those of us with older parents, some time spent finding out what services are available in the local community is a good starting point. Whether it is the need for help when cleaning the house, mowing the lawns, administering medication, or otherwise helping to manage daily living, exploring what is available, on a short-term or longer-term basis, is worthwhile.

The complexities of day-to-day living experienced by our parents with increasing care needs, and our children raising their own families, will see today’s retiree continue to be ‘sandwiched’ between two worlds.

If we find ourselves in this situation, we need to take time out for ourselves, while still acknowledging the need to provide support and assistance where we can.

Drawing on the support of other agencies and services when the need arises should never be seen as a weakness on our part. After all, and despite the perceptions of our families, we are still only human!

We hope you have enjoyed this article. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment below.


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