Caught in the middle – the sandwich generation

Those considered part of the sandwich generation support the older and younger generations of their family.

They’re growing in number

A 2019 report by the Office for National Statistics suggesting 3% of the UK’s general population – 1.3 million people – were supporting their parents and their kids.

The trend is a result of two influences:

  • Increasing life expectancy due to improving lifestyles
  • Extended adolescence due to social and economic changes

For the sandwich generation, typically people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, this means both generations rely on them, stretching their time and money.

Caring for parents

Increasing life expectancy can only be a good thing. More people are enjoying a happy and fulfilling retirement, watching their family grow up.

But as we get older our health and independence deteriorate, and the sandwich generation find themselves stepping into a supporting role for their parents. Many people develop serious physical or mental illnesses in later life, making their needs complex and demanding. There has been significant recent coverage of the cost of care and the challenges of funding this that we face as an “ageing society”.

Grown up kids at home

In 2017 there were 3.4 million 20-34 year olds living with their parents in the UK, up from 2.4 million in 1997, according to think tank Civitas.

Many factors are contributing to the growing trend of adult children living with their parents for longer. Student debt, the job market, inflation, property prices and the cost of living have made making a start in adult life harder than ever for today’s young people. This is not just a UK trend but a pattern we see in other nations, sometimes to a more acute extent. For example, in Italy over 66% of people under 35 still lived with their parents in 2018, compared to 37% in the UK.

Looking at this one way, for many parents having their children at home for longer is a dream come true, but it inevitably comes with financial demands that can be hard for some to meet.

Some even help their children buy a first home, and sometimes lifetime mortgages are used to release equity in their home to help them do this. Thanks to product protections they can do so in the knowledge that the loan cannot put them in negative equity.


The sandwich generation juggle their priorities in offering care, guidance, advice and financial support to their parents and their children.

Some report huge satisfaction in being the linchpin of their multi-generational families, but advisers should understand that their financial responsibilities can be complicated and stressful.

Over the coming months we will further explore the challenges of the sandwich generation, helping you to better-understand their needs and challenges.

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