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We Give Money to Kids, Help to Parents, Report Says

A new Pew survey explores attitudes on caring across generations

By Emily Gurnon

Americans are more likely to provide financial help to adult children than to aging parents, but we give “sweat equity” to the older generation, according to a new report that looks at Americans’ attitudes about coping with our swiftly aging population.

Helping our aging parents with everything from errands and housework to dressing and bathing can certainly be difficult, but far more of those surveyed said they saw it as a rewarding experience than a stressful one.

The report, “Family Support in Graying Societies,” was issued last week by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan group that works to inform the public about issues, attitudes and trends shaping America.

American attitudes about caring across generations were compared in the report with those of two other “aging” countries, Germany and Italy.

More of Us Getting Older

The number of people ages 65 and over in the U.S. is expected to nearly double by 2050.

That shift to an older population has already begun, and we are seeing its effects. Adults in the U.S., as well as in Germany and Italy, say “families are taking the lead role as caregivers for aging adults,” the report noted. They or someone else in the family provide the majority of the care older relatives need, respondents said.

Among adults with at least one parent 65 or older, 58 percent report helping with errands, housework or home repairs. Once the parent reaches 75 and above, the percentage of Americans assisting with those tasks rises to 64 percent.

Far fewer (14 percent) deal with personal care of parents 65 and older, such as dressing or bathing.

In addition to helping their older relatives, one-third of Americans surveyed said they believed it is their responsibility to help care for their grandchildren.

The Sandwich Generation

Many of us in the above-50 crowd care for not only our aging parents but our underage or adult children, too.

“Despite the added demand on this group … those who are part of the sandwich generation are as likely as other adults to say they are generally happy with their lives and to express high levels of satisfaction with their family life, the number of friends they have, the quality of life in their community and their present housing situation,” the report said. “They are also no more likely than other adults to say helping an aging parent is stressful.”


A majority of Americans said that relatives or older individuals themselves — not the government — should be responsible for their financial security.

Opening Our Wallets

While a greater proportion gave money to adult children (61 percent) than to older parents, the Pew study found that one in three Americans surveyed reported financially supporting an older parent in the last 12 months. Nearly half of those, however, said that financial support was for special circumstances rather than recurring expenses.

One eye-opening survey finding: a solid majority of Americans said it was “not a responsibility” to leave an inheritance for their children — yet the younger they are, the more likely our children are to disagree.

Roughly half (51 percent) of those ages 18 to 29 answered “yes” to the question “Do parents have a responsibility to leave an inheritance for their children?” (The number fell to 36 percent of children ages 30 to 49 and 28 percent for children 50 to 64.)

For the portion of the study on support and caregiving, the researchers interviewed 192 people late last year between the ages of 40 and 64 who had at least one living parent ages 65 or older and at least one child.




Emily Gurnon is the former Senior Content Editor covering health and caregiving for Next Avenue. She previously spent 20 years as a newspaper reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area and St. Paul. Read More
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