Role Reversal

According to a recent study by Communispace, the recession has added considerable stress to this already overburdened population known as "the sandwich generation," baby boomers who support kids, parents, relatives and themselves at the same time. However, the study finds that these people are not stressed because they're caring for kids and parents, it's because they're caring for parents and in-laws, period.

A significant finding is that this caretaker segment is more of a "situation" than a generation. It includes people ranging from their mid-30s to 60 and over who will sacrifice more for their parents, even if it's at the expense of their children:

  • 58% said they'd give a spare bedroom to an aging parent over their young adult child
  • 65% said they'd move in with an ailing parent, even if it meant a longer commute and new environment (school, friends, etc) for their child or children
  • 77% would adapt the things they'd purchase to accommodate parents; for example, when buying a new car they'd consider buying one with a larger trunk (to hold a parent's wheel chair or walker), rather than one that is comfortable or gets good gas mileage

Recognizing a potential need for targeted products and services, or focused marketing, to this unique market segment, the study presents findings supporting interests in insurance, healthcare/social services and transportation. Insurance responses from these caregivers include the fact that:

  • 45% like the idea of a flexible home health insurance plan that would cover their parents as well as themselves and their spouse at different periods in time
  • 47% would like to have the ability to carry their parents as well as their kids on their health insurance
  • 39% like the idea of a low-cost, high-deductible health insurance add-on for their kids who are not in college but also not employed or getting health insurance from their employer

For those responding to special needs in Healthcare and Social Services:

  • 40%  like the idea of someone who could transport their parent to the doctor, sit with them when the doctor gives them a diagnosis and treatment plan, and then report it all to them
  • 26% like the idea of a combined Senior Center and Child Daycare Center
  • 26% like the idea of a service to dispense or remind their parents to take their medication
  • 22% like the idea of a services that would install webcams in their parents' home and their own  to let them monitor them
  • A "considerable number" of people are looking for more culturally and linguistically appropriate services for their elderly parents (many of whom don't speak English)

And in the Transportation field, 26% of the respondents liked the idea of airline discount packs, (i.e. coupons or discounts on multiple trips to the same location, making regular visits to parents easier or making kids' flights cheaper). 

The report concludes by pointing out that over 20 million Americans belong to the "sandwich generation"-baby boomers simultaneously taking care of aging parents and young children.  Feeling stretched, overwhelmed, and under-supported this segment of consumers has particular needs and hopes that marketers must understand.  Products and services designed for a world where one's middle years bring a decrease in responsibility and an increase in personal time, are out of step with today's reality.

For more information, please visit with Communispace here.

6 comments about "Role Reversal".
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  1. Jody Quinn from Edelman, October 20, 2009 at 9:17 a.m.

    Life-stage trumps age. Amen!

  2. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo, October 21, 2009 at 9:48 a.m.

    This is research is spot on. At 56 we are lending emotional and financial support in many directions.
    Staying connected with all the individuals, both old and young is challenging. Doing a "time-triage" to determine which group should get our attention is a hard balancing act.
    We are using and developing internet tools to assist in making it all work for our family. And, we don't have nearly as many issues as others are dealing with in our generation.

  3. Karen Sadler from Age Conversation, October 21, 2009 at 9:55 a.m.

    Great highlights on a life stage. Living longer, new services are needed for the "caregiving" stage of life, whenever it arrives.

    20% of everyone over age 65 already has dementia and at age 85 that statistic rises to 50%. Brain fitness research is starting to pour in and some studies support that specific life long learning programs can prevent and delay the onset of dementia. Multi-generational communities that support life long learning, interaction and communication between all generations are needed in every community.

    For people who choose to stay in their home for services, the need is there for safe transportation or neighborhood programs for socialization which can increase the quality of life and stress on caregivers who become the seemingly sole contact for the person/persons who need care.

    The need for qualily affordable services for this niche market is now.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 21, 2009 at 10:38 a.m.

    This message really needs to be greatly emphasized in junior high and high school when the kids think it's cool to be indestructible unwed mothers and fathers. Think about it.

  5. Lori Bitter from The Business of Aging, October 21, 2009 at 1:13 p.m.

    For so long this has been a "silent" lifestage; it is great to see this research. What is even more compelling is that women will move in and out of the caregiving stage at least three times in their lives: parents, in-laws and spouse.

  6. Rodney Brooks from ToTouch One, Inc, October 21, 2009 at 1:19 p.m.

    I guess you cannot segment a market fine enough. Sometime in the future we will find that each person on the planet is a segment at which point there will be be ads for left-handed, red-haired, college-educated, environmentalist, home-renters with no children who live in the Southwest and don't like cheese who care for a brother, his wife and a cat and the grandparents of the wife's stepfather. Media Planners & Buyers - Good luck with that.

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