Our kids will soon be entering what is known as the sandwich years. This phrase refers to those individuals between the ages of 40 to 59 who are often put into the position of having to care for both their children and their parents simultaneous. For the aging parents, it may mean caring for them during illness, providing financial aid or helping them with daily tasks so that they can live independently as much as possible. For the children, who remain living longer at home than in the past, it refers to giving them the financial, physical and emotional support they require. All of these demands and responsibilities can take a toll on the wellbeing of the middle-aged.


Now let me tell you, I’m not quite at the stage yet where I need this extra looking after so my slice of bread isn’t buttered yet. I looked back over the years when I was the ‘filling’ in this sandwich and remembered what all that entailed and now our children will soon be caught in the middle, parenting their children and parenting us, their parents. I do not mean to take this topic lightly as there is a tremendous amount of time, effort and stress involved when dealing with two different generations who are on the total opposite ends of the aging scale. However, for this story, I would like to look at it in a light-hearted way, to show that there isn’t much difference between raising kids and caring for the elderly. Let’s examine this.


Hearing: Both the young and the old have hearing issues. The seniors can’t hear and the teenagers don’t listen. The results are the same. Poor communication between the generations.


Attitude: Young people know everything and won’t be told what to do. Seniors realize that they don’t know everything, don’t care and definitely won’t be told what to do.


Time Management: Parents set curfew times for their kids and constantly worry when the agreed upon time has expired without any sign of the missing child. Their punishment – the kid is grounded. Parents worry when they can’t get a hold of their senior folk. They fear we have expired! “I called you three times this afternoon and you didn’t answer. Where were you?” Punishment – the threat of wearing a medical alert devise or some other type of tracking apparatus.


Drugs: Parents worry about their kids getting into the wrong crowd and being pulled into the drug scene. Where will they get the money to support this habit? Will they turn to crime? What street corner is their supplier working? Overdosing for some kids could become a real concern. The same worries and concerns occur with the seniors. If you really want to see a stash of drugs just look into a senior’s medicine cabinet. In most cases, these medications have been paid for by the government so committing a crime in order to cover their cost is not a concern here. Seniors don’t have to stand on a street corner to meet their supplier. Their pusher, the family doctor, is only a prescription away. But there are other drug related concerns when dealing with the elderly. A surprising number of seniors see nothing wrong with sharing their meds. Mary has an ache and Martha has just the cure in her drug arsenal to fix that problem. “Here Mary, see if this will help.” Only God knows what other drugs Mary is on. And talk about overdosing, how many seniors self-medicate, or truly believe that if one pill will work just think how much faster two pills will do the job. And finally, many seniors just plain forget whether they have taken their medication or not, so a really true threat of overdose can exist. Again, the middle-aged worry for the health and safety for both these generations.


Forgetfulness: Parents can tell their kids things which are never remembered or acknowledged. Why does this happen? Usually, the kids were not listening in the first place or deliberately didn’t want to remember. Seniors don’t always remember, maybe because they didn’t actually hear the conversation or more likely, because their memory is deteriorating.


Sleep: Just try to get teenagers up before noon on a weekend. They need their sleep. Just try to keep a senior awake past 8pm. They too need their sleep.


Socializing: Hanging out at the mall and meeting friends is an activity enjoyed by both these generations. For the sandwich generation, it often means that they are supplying the transportation to and from this destination. Socializing with friends on various media sources is also a common bond between the young and the old. While a parent may need to monitor what their child is watching on the internet, there is usually no need for this control on seniors. God help the person who tries to limit a senior’s Facebook time.


The members of this “caught in the middle” generation are facing considerable stress, experiencing emotional and mental health issues and having major financial problems. There are many contributors to this state of affairs. The fact that 19 % of the population of Canada is 65 years of age and older has put a strain on society as the elderly require more and new forms of care. Outside support and vital resources for families are scarce or nonexistent which means that the middle-aged are taking on these additional responsibilities. The COVID pandemic along with its economic impact on people has sent many adult children back home to live with parents resulting in adjustments to both their way of life and to that of their parents. But through it all, it is important to remember that it is not just the young and the old we must take care of. We must also look after the care-givers, this Sandwich generation. Their health and well-being affects us all.