African Americans in the Middle

Survey tells how blacks balance parent care and other issues

Are African Americans feeling the squeeze when caring for aging parents in the face of other responsibilities? Not according to an AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) July 2001 study. The report, In the Middle: A Report on Multicultural Boomers Coping With Family and Aging Issues, looked at challenges related to”sandwich-generation boomers”–a segment of the population ages 45-55 who are caught between aging parents and children younger than 21.

Of the 404 black respondents, eight out of 10 indicated that they do not feel stressed because they are balancing the needs of their family and elderly relatives. In fact, 63% indicated they can “comfortably handle all of my family responsibilities.” This is particularly interesting since 26% of African American respondents had four or more children vs. 18% of the general population.

“This AARP study not only shows that the ‘self-help’ tradition remains a central part of African American life, but also highlights the critical role that the extended family plays in African American households,” asserts Eddie N. Williams, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in a statement. The study also reveals that African Americans are more likely than whites, Hispanics, and Asians to rely on their friends, neighbors, co-workers, parents, adult children, brothers and sisters, other relatives, and the church for assistance with caregiving. Adds Dr. Margaret C. Simms, vice president for research at the Joint Center, a nonprofit public policy research group in Washington, D.C., and a be Board of Economists member, “The findings provide a snapshot of how many African Americans are coping with various caregiving responsibilities and a much clearer picture of the subgroups that face the most challenges.”

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