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Who are the Boomerang Seniors?

Many people have heard the terms “sandwich generation” and “silver tsunami.” But today, there is a new phrase, “boomerang seniors,” that describes many seniors in their 60s, 70s and even 80s. These boomerang seniors are caring for an even older relative, usually a parent, who is in their 90s or 100s. You can think of it as “sandwich generation part 2.”

The American Gerontological Society of America in 2015 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 figure even exceeds the projections of the 1990s. Two-thirds of the very old have elderly children who are their caregivers. Many boomerang seniors never expected this type of life in their golden years, a life without rest, caring for even older parents while experiencing significant health issues of their own. Kathrin Boerner, a professor of gerontology at UMass, calls this phenomena “aging together,” when the family structure comprises of very old parents and elderly children, which is becoming common.

For many people, retirement meant more freedom and less daily responsibility. They worked most of their lifetime and saved income to live the life they had always dreamed. Most of these people are past their time of caregiving duties, and imagined only caring for themselves and enjoying the home they managed to pay off. But many retirees have sold their homes and moved in with their parents to care for them. Others have found a balance by maybe moving into the same CCRC (continuum of care retirement community) as their parent where professional caregivers exist to permit the aging children some chance of freedom. As everything else in our society, this kind of option takes money from both generations. More often than not, the oldest parent never dreamed they would live as long as they have and require as much as they do.

As we continue to expand our abilities in medicine, and as businesses continue to close leaving retirees with little (or no) pensions, this problem has all the signs of becoming a greater challenge as the years progress.