On New Year’s Day 2011, the first of the baby boomer generation turned 65. In its New Year’s edition, the New York Times cited a Pew Research Study indicating that approximately 10,000 boomers will turn 65 each day for the next 19 years. (see Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65, Dan Barry.) A generation defined by their youth, many have questioned whether boomers will find a way to hol
d onto it and redefine the meaning of old age. However, like the generations before them, the 79 million boomers will inevitably confront the physical, legal, medical, and financial issues associated with aging.
This reality becomes even more complicated for those boomers who find themselves caring for their elderly parents while still caring for their own children. Boomers in these circumstances may, or may not, know that they also belong to the “sandwich generation.” This term refers to those adults (including those younger than baby boomers) who feel squeezed between their obligations to their aging parents and growing children.
Daily and long-term decisions related to the care of an aging family member who is struggling with physical and/or mental decline has the potential to create family tension and discord. Mediation offers a proactive way for families to approach these delicate and important decisions and minimize the potential for family discord.
The good news for sandwiched boomers is that the values of free choice and self-determination, which likely informed many aspects of their lives: personal, professional, social, and political, come into play in family mediation as well. Of course, when faced with the challenges of communicating with an aging parent and other family members about medical, physical, and financial concerns, self-determination and free-choice may become overshadowed by more pressing circumstances. In these times, it is easy to overlook these values as belonging to the person in need of care. Elder mediation offers family members a neutral setting to explore and deepen their understanding of the elder’s preferences and desires and to work together in making decisions that may affect all of their lives.