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Parenting Parents: The Sandwich Generation on Steroids

For the so-called “sandwich generation”—adults typically in their 30s, 40s and 50s who must balance concern for their children with those of their parents—COVID-19’s impact on the elderly almost tipped the scales (or at least squeezed that “sandwich” a lot tighter).

Seemingly overnight, the elderly faced increased, serious health risks and their adult children a whole new set of responsibilities, from simply shopping for groceries to managing their parents’ banking and healthcare: Two sectors that quickly went from predominantly in-person delivery to online—and almost instantly became virtually inaccessible to the oldest among us. Add to that the stress of children facing an educational environment turned upside down and it’s no wonder recent research shows the sandwich generation feels more pressure than ever before. 

Feeling financially unprepared.

The pandemic put the need for caring for an aging parent, both medically and financially, into the spotlight—and many feel unprepared to do so, according to a recent New York Life survey

While about one-third feel unprepared to assist with their parents’ healthcare, more of them—nearly half—feel unprepared to help support their parents financially. Compounding this issue is this group’s own lack of short-term financial security: Nearly half say they’re much less confident about their savings based on their one-year economic outlook than they were before COVID-19. 

  • Their challenges equal opportunity for financial service marketers. Act as an adviser, not just a banker—and proactively offer to sit down to discuss accountholder’s changing financial needs when the time is right. (This group wants to visit a branch as soon as possible: 80 percent say they’ll go back as soon as they’re open, according to a recent survey).

Concerned about parents’ online activity—not their kids’.

During the pandemic, the sandwich generation began worrying more about managing the technology needs—and data safety—of their parents, and less about their kids’ screen time. Nearly 90 percent of those in a recent survey are concerned their parents are going to fall victim to hackers, scammers and phishing attacks, but had no such concerns about their children’s online gaming: In fact, their comfort level remained virtually unchanged from pre-COVID levels.

  • Brands that use technology to help adults keep their aging parents safe and functional—and offer educational campaigns and assistance—will have a leg up. Data protection, especially as it relates to vulnerable senior citizens, will remain top of mind, especially for financial and healthcare institutions, and government agencies, who will be held to a higher standard.

Craving news and information.

You might think that this group would look for some escapism in their media habits, but according to a recent Resonate survey, this simply isn’t the case. They’re consuming more news now than before: Their top TV networks include PBS, MSNBC and CNN––and nearly half spend another 20 to 40 hours per week online, typically on apps for news/weather, travel or books. When they pick up a print publication, they’re most likely turning to the Wall Street Journal or Time

  • Reaching this demographic via these news outlets is a given; bolster your messaging and strengthen your connections by offering content that’s relevant, engaging and educational. 

Looking to connect with peers.

While they’re out there looking for news, they also actively seek out the opinions of others. This demographic places a disproportionate importance on input from friends and family when making buying decisions, with more than 97% reading online reviews. Both men and women say they’ll disqualify a business if their online reputation isn’t up to their standards—and would be hard pressed to reconsider once they’re “off the list.” 

  • This makes having a solid reputation management program more important than ever. Proactively monitor sites such as Google and Yelp and respond to your reviews—both the positive and negative ones. And while there are very few instances where you can suppress a negative review, lessen their sting with a proactive messaging strategy to quickly address common complaints—and encourage positive ones to help push the negative ones down. 

The bottom line: Empathy is key.

This audience is not only facing the expected role of “parenting” their aging parents, they are also staring down an unprecedented health crisis that is affecting the elderly with far greater consequences. More than anything, they want to hear from a brand that understands, that wants to provide support or an authentic message of recognition, or somehow make their life easier.  

The mantra “know thy customer” has never been truer. It’s only by truly understanding your targets’ needs, by demonstrating that “we know who you are and what you’re going through”—and by delivering that message with empathy and authenticity that you can hope to connect with the sandwich generation (or any other) and drive tangible results.

Want to know more about your market, how it’s changing as a result of the pandemic—and how your marketing should too? Contact us to find out more about AW Actionable Insights, our customized research, discovery and strategic action plan.

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