The decrease in the birth rate and the increase in life expectancy due to socio-health progress have made the aging of the population not only a reality, but one of the great challenges of the coming years. If today the population over 65 years of age in Catalonia is 1.5 million people, forecasts indicate that it will reach 2.5 million in 2050. How to serve this significant group of the population?

Reality prevails and more and more people between 45 and 65 years old are juggling taking care of their elderly relatives, while continuing to take care of their descendants, even minors or not independent. It is the so-called Sandwich Generation. “This is a reality that has a very strong impact on the social, emotional and economic lives of more and more people, especially women, but which continues to be invisible. It seems that, as a society, we do not dare to reflect on it,” explains Àngels Cobo, director of Digital Transformation at Suara Cooperativa, a non-profit company with more than 40 years of experience in caring for people.

The fact that it is an ‘invisible’ role means that the sandwich person experiences the process with a lot of loneliness. Àngels Cobo explains that “in some focus that we carried out in Suara with sandwich women, the most common statements were that they lived a life of continuous stress, with an accelerated pace, multitasking and focused 100% on caring for others, always leaving them second. flat. All this with the addition of having a constant feeling of guilt, helplessness and frustration for not achieving everything.”

In Catalonia, a total of 108,000 people continuously care for an elderly and/or dependent person, usually family members, according to the latest data from the Department of Social Rights. “If we compare them with the 97,000 non-professional caregivers that we had at the end of 2023, we see that in the first four months of the year alone, the number of non-professional caregivers in Catalonia has grown by 11%,” emphasizes Cobo.

Women represent 65% (70,000) and half (35,000) are between 45 and 65 years old, so they would respond to the ‘sandwich woman’ profile. “Although there are surely many more, but they do not appear in the official data because they do not receive any type of help.”

In Spain as a whole, the role of women as non-professional caregivers is even more evident (73%) and half of them (46.9%) are between 50 and 66 years old.

“The data shows that we face a great social and economic challenge. It is evident that, with an aging and long-lived population, there will be more and more dependent people. This calls into question the future sustainability of the current welfare state and forces an urgent reflection on the future of care. As a society, who do we want to take it on? And what measures are we going to take to make this possible?” says Àngels Cobo.

The emotional support of caregivers is also one of Suara’s concerns. For this reason, the project was born not only as a portal with truthful and updated information about the dependency process, but also works on the emotional part. “The elderly person should not feel alone, but neither should their caregiver, and for many years we have seen how sandwich women face the process of losing a family member’s autonomy alone. That is why we have created the Aliura Community, a network of accompaniment and support for these non-professional women caregivers who are offered information, advice, activities, etc. to help them in the process” concludes Cobo.

Aliura is an initiative of Suara Cooperativa, promoted by the Social Economy Program of the Department of Business and Labor of the Generalitat de Catalunya, through the Singulars Project and with funding from the Ministerio de Trabajo y Economía Social.

There are support and accompaniment services for older and dependent people that can be of help to this Sandwich Generation. This is the case of the Suara Home Help Service, a service adapted to the needs of each family reality, carried out by a team of professionals specialized in the care and attention of the elderly. From home provisioning, meal preparation and doctor accompaniment, to control and management of medication guidelines, small cures and personal hygiene and home maintenance, all the services offered guarantee and enhance the autonomy and well-being of the person, increase your quality of life and allow you to live longer at home.

Aware of the reality of many older people and their families, and thanks to a commitment to innovation, Suara also offers families other options, such as the new Casal Online, a virtual space with a program of activities directed by professionals at which the elderly person can join by connecting through the home television. “It is a way to fight against unwanted loneliness, because every day they connect with a group with whom they chat, share experiences and feelings and carry out activities.” In the words of Maria, one of the users of this successful project: “I am delighted. I feel more accompanied because we chat and do many activities that make me want to do things more. And all without leaving home.”