Looking after the sandwich generation
As younger people face problems finding jobs and being able to afford houses, it is increasingly the middle aged on whom the burden of care is falling. That means many people who have delayed having children are now also having to look after ageing parents.
The so-called sandwich generation is also facing a longer working life as the retirement age rises, but despite all this demographic change, the financial services offered to people are still based on traditional notions, such as that a mortgage should be for a 25-year term.
Should these services be reconfigured in line with changing demographics? Legal & General recently published a report, 35 cubed, asking whether the financial services industry needs to adapt to the huge social changes witnessed over the last 35 years.
But the company is not just rethinking what it offers its customers. It is also considering how changing demographics affect its employees. Over the last three years it has been focusing on how to help the sandwich generation. It started to look at the issue after a big report came out on it. It was already working with age-related charities such as the Elderly Accommodation Council so had a good idea about long-term care funding issues.
"A lot of people find it very confusing to deal with elderly care. It is hard to find out what they are entitled to plus they are emotionally involved," says Rebecca Perry, Public Affairs Manager at Legal & General and author of the 35 cubed report.
"Our work with the Elderly Accommodation Council led us to think that there was probably information we could pass on to our staff which could help them."
Legal & General set up workshops for staff called Looking after Mum and Dad with the help of the EAC. Staff can attend the sessions and can ask for one to ones to talk about their personal situation and get help. The initial aim of the workshops was for Legal & General to assess the level of need among staff. "We were surprised at how many staff were interested. Out of our 7,000 staff in the UK we had over 50 people attending one to ones and these might just be people who are in need of help right now. People don’t really think about long term care until they need to," says Rebecca.
Legal & General also offers staff the option of working flexibly if they have a care crisis.
The 35 squared report shows those people who are looking after their elderly parents are often either still looking after children or caring for grandchildren. "Traditionally people used to think they could start to enjoy life in their mid to late 50s when their kids left home. But now they are often still looking after their children financially into their 20s and 30s or may be grandparents themselves and then something happens to their own parents. It can seem never ending," says Rebecca.
She says the report shows grandparents "help out massively" with childcare. Partly this is again because of demographic changes - as well as childcare costs. The fact that people are living longer and in greater health means there are often now more grandparents around to help out, particularly in the early years. "This is vital for helping parents to work," says Rebecca.
She hopes that the report will lead a debate about how demographic changes and the decreasing role of the state in family support is affecting families. The report suggests people’s expectations have not kept pace with these changes. They still expect to be doing the same things their parents did at roughly the same age.
Most people, for instance, still think that the best age to leave home permanently is 23, the best age to move in with a partner is 27, the best age to have a baby is 29 and the best age to retire is 62.
But the report also shows through small details how much the world has changed, whether it is the amount of jobs the average 35 to 44 year old has had [seven] or the fact that half of them have received financial assistance from a member of their family.
As a society, we need to think about the implications of the changes, says Rebecca, and how we can support that change. Legal & General wants to start a debate on how the financial services industry can do that, but it is also keen to look at how it can practically support its own employees.