Growing ‘sandwich generation’ help parents and children - report

Providing intergenerational support can have negative impact on health, TCD study finds

A new report has highlighted the “important contribution” of a growing ‘sandwich generation’ of older women in supporting three generations – their elderly parents and their children and their grandchildren.

The 'sandwich generation' are women aged between 50 and 69 with a living parent and children (accounting for a third of this age-group or 141,400 women in Ireland), according to the Trinity College Dublin study on intergenerational transfers released yesterday.

Most of these women give a range of financial or non-financial help to both their elderly parents and their children.

Over half of these women (58 per cent) give help to their parents and 83 per cent give help to their dependent and non-dependent children , according to the research which is part of the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) .


In addition, one third of the ‘sandwich generation’ women look after their grandchildren – this proportion increased with age and decreased with education level. Half of the women also work and a quarter have third-level education, the study found.

The report’s authors noted that providing such support can have a negative impact on the health of these women and lead to increased depression.

The ‘sandwich generation’ is becoming more relevant with changing population structure as people live longer, fertility is delayed and more women remain in the work-force, the report said. The recession also impacts on the ability of elderly parents and younger adult children to support themselves, it said.

Half of the women provide substantial time supporting their parents, the study found. One third provided supports such as dressing, eating and bathing for an average of 21 hours a week and more than half helped with chores and shopping.

A third of the women gave their non-resident adult children practical household help such as shopping and chores for an average of 12 hours per month. In addition, a third of these women looked after their grandchildren for an average of 34 hours per month.

Two thirds of this generation also give financial help to their children, an average of €3,000 over the past two years. Almost a tenth gave financial support to their elderly parents (an average of €2,000 in the past two years). Most of those financially supporting their parents also supported their children, the study found.

The burgeoning aging population and the increasing demands on the middle generation for financial and informal care was a "key challenge" facing public health which may lead to an "increasing negative impact on health," Professor of Geriatric Medicine at TCD and principal investigator to TILDA, Rose Anne Kenny said.

There are about 141,400 in the ‘sandwich generation’ – women aged between 50 and 69 with living parents and children


58.3% give help to parents


82.9% give help to children


36.6% look after grandchildren (34 hours per month)


9% give financial help to parents (€2,000 in last two years)


56% give non-financial help to parents (21 hours a week)


66% give financial help to children (€3,000 in last three years)


33% give non-financial help to adult children (12 hours a month)

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery is Deputy Head of Audience at The Irish Times