‘Sandwiched’ Caregivers Want Realism, Empowerment

November 3, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Creative & Formats | Youth & Gen X

The so-called “Sandwich Generation” appears to be more of a situation than a quantifiable age group, according to a study by Communispace, which found that the 20 million Americans who are simultaneously caring for aging parents and children range in age from their 20s to their 60s and want realistic marketing messages that empower and reassure them.

Aging Parents Cause Stress, Frustration

Not surprisingly, the research revealed that while “sandwiched” men and women view caring for their children as a natural and rewarding aspect of life, they feel that caring for aging parents is a stressor that is unexpected, unpredictable and frustrating.


Despite these findings, sandwiched people are extremely likely to sacrifice to help their parents, even at the expense of their own children.

Key study findings:

  • 58% say they would give a spare bedroom to an aging parent over their young-adult child.
  • 65% would move in with an ailing parent, even if it meant a longer commute and/or a new school for their children
  • 77% would change their purchasing behavior to accommodate their parents. For example, choosing a car with a larger trunk to hold a parent’s walker over one that is comfortable or gets good gas mileage

New Product, Service Concepts

Communispace believes that marketers need to create and target products and services to meet this often overlooked “sandiwich” demographic. As a result, the study explored several product and service ideas and uncovered several concepts that appealed to respondents:

  • 47% would like the ability to carry both their parents and their children on their health insurance, and 45% highly ranked a flexible long-term care policy that would cover their parents and themselves at different points in time.
  • 26% liked the idea of a service to dispense or remind their parents to take their medication.
  • 22% liked the idea of a service to install webcams in their homes or that of their parents.
  • 26% liked the idea of airline packages that would provide discounts on multiple trips to the same location or offer a reduced rate for children.

“Not only did participants suggest ideas for the product categories you’d expect, such as insurance or healthcare, but they talked about the brands and services they rely on across many other domains, such as personal care, cleaning products, and food and beverages,” said Julie Wittes Schlack, Communispace’s SVP of innovation and design and a lead researcher on the project. “For Millennials and Boomers alike, the need for products providing comfort and reliability suggests new opportunities for brands not usually associated with caring for the elderly.”

Realistic, Empowering Messages Work Best

Wittes Schlack also noted that marketers also need to be mindful of the tone of the messages they use to reach this group of people, keeping in mind they are very realistic about their situation. “We were struck by how strongly members felt about off-target marketing messages,” she said. “Advertisements that relied on fear-mongering and sugar-coating were absolutely repellant to people; but messaging that was realistic, reassuring and empowering was seen very positively.”

About the study:The Sandwich Situation: A layered look in at the complex lives of multi-generational caregivers,” was undertaken among 481 US caregivers to examine the demographics, needs and choices of this growing population and to help brands better understand this consumer segment.


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