What is a boomerang senior?
You may know the terms “sandwich generation” and “silver tsunami.”Now we have a new one, “boomerang seniors,” to describe older adults in their 60s, 70s and 80s. Boomerang seniors care for an even older relative, usually a parent, who is in their 90s or 100s. Patricia Maisano from Life Navigator calls it “sandwich generation part 2.”
In 2015, the Gerontological Society of America published that “… the very old are the fastest-growing segment of the population in most developed countries, with an expected increase of 51% of elders 80+ between 2010 and 2030.” This number exceeds past projections made in the 1990’s. Two-thirds of the very old have children, who are considered older themselves, as their caregivers. Most boomerang seniors did not expect their later years to be spent taking care of older family members. Caregiving is difficult at any time, but to enter your so-called “golden years” taking care of even older parents at a time you might be experiencing significant age related health issues of your own, can be extremely problematic. This phenomena is called “aging together”, a phrase coined by Kathrin Boerner, a professor of gerontology at UMass, and describes the increasingly common situation where the family structure is made up of very old parents and elderly children.
To many who worked and saved to eventually live the life they dreamed, retirement means more freedom and less daily responsibility . Retirees generally expect to be past their time of caring for children and parents, and imagined caring only for themselves during this time. Despite careful planning for their future, many older adults found themselves in a position where they needed to sell their homes to live with and care for their parents. Others moved close to their parent(s), but arranged for professional caregivers which allows the aging children more freedom and balance. This second option works well, but care is expensive and requires a substantial amount of money from both generations.
The Bottom Line
Medical advancements make it possible for people to live much longer lives today than ever before. Unfortunately, many retirees struggle financially as pensions disappear and savings do not stretch as far as expected – which adds to the stress of caring for loved ones.