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How Society Can Evolve to Support Generation Caregiver

In 2020, the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP released their Caregiving in the U.S. report to define the demographics, challenges, and needs of the nation’s family caregivers. Since 2015 (when the last report was published) an additional 9.5 million have joined the ranks of family caregivers to push the number to 53 million — more than 1 in 5 Americans. Perhaps even more significant is that we can now state that five generations — from Gen Z and millennials, to Gen X, baby boomers, and even Silent Generation — are now caregiving. 

The needs of family caregivers are not one-size-fits-all. A college freshman caring for a grandparent or parent has different needs than a 78-year-old caring for their 82-year-old spouse. In addition, the diagnosis often dictates the level of care needs. A person caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease will be in their caregiving role twice as long as other caregivers, spending more hours and encountering more costs, as well as coping with a disease that robs their loved one of memories and communication skills, and can dramatically change behavior. 

And we cannot overlook the Sandwich Generation — those caregivers with children still needing care while also caring for older loved ones, and often doing this all while juggling work responsibilities. 

Silver linings

If the coronavirus pandemic has any silver lining, it has put a bright spotlight on family caregiving and the vulnerabilities of aging loved ones. We cannot ignore family caregivers, a group, according to AARP, that provides more than $470 billion annually in societal value based on unpaid hours of care — more than the annual sales of Amazon or Walmart. 

Very often, caregivers sacrifice their own health and wellness needs to soldier on caring for loved ones. Recent studies since the coronavirus pandemic show caregivers have increased levels of stress and anxiety and face more negative health impacts – physical and mental – than the general population. 

And yet, caregivers have been overlooked, overwhelmed, and undervalued. However, COVID may have changed the invisibility of caregivers forever.

The birth of Gen C

Digital analyst David Solis coined the term “Gen C” to define a group of people with similar digital behaviors regardless of age group. Based on psychographics instead of demographics, the designation is important to marketers particularly in the digital world of social media, internet search, and mobile technology. 

As I read through the findings of this Gen C research, I was struck by the similarities in defining digital behaviors and how they applied to how caregiving should function: connectivity, collaboration, community, creativity, communication, curation. I adopted the essence of Gen C to define the elements of caregiving in my upcoming book “The Gen C Plan: The Social Contract Between Generation Caregiver and America.” 

As we experience bonus years of longevity, the importance of family caregivers will not decline but only increase. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2035, we will hit a milestone in American history — for the first time, we will have more parents over age 65 to care for than children under 18. 

This new social contract between caregivers and America will require key stakeholders in society to address the vital role caregivers play. For instance:


A Harvard Business School study showed 1 in 3 employees are caregiving and 1 in 6 care for older family members. Helping caregivers in the workplace with productivity, presenteeism, and their own health and wellness needs are critical. 

Workplace benefits are already being transformed from COVID-19 shutdowns. Flexible work schedules, telecommuting, work-from-home policies, benefits like back-up care, and a convergence of workplace wellness with caregiving supports will need to be addressed and enacted. 


Policymakers have made some recent strides in helping caregivers (the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, National Family Caregiver Support Program funding, proposed legislation for tax credits, and the expanding paid family leave that was recently adopted for federal employees), but acknowledging our healthcare system — especially long-term-care — relies on millions of unpaid family caregivers will require more support. 


While only 6 percent of all caregivers are Gen Z, understanding the needs of young adults and youth who are caregiving is critical for our schools beginning in middle school through higher education. According to the NAC/AARP 2020 study, up to 3.4 million children are struggling with school work while assisting with care for a family member. In fact, a 2006 study conducted for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by Civic Enterprises found 22 percent of high school dropouts leave school to care for a family member.


Retailers, financial services, homebuilders, and home modification marketplaces, transportation, and more are beginning to focus on caregiver needs. In addition, technology will play a big role in helping caregivers maintain the high-touch, in-person care they provide, but will be supplemented by assistive technology for safety, health maintenance, and connectivity. Investors are fueling entrepreneurs focused on age-tech, fintech, and caregiving solutions, and a $4 trillion wellness industry has an engaged audience of caregivers wanting support in practicing self-care.

2020 may long be remembered for the global pandemic, the presidential election, and more but it is also the year Generation Caregiver took center stage ushering in a new era of social capital.

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