Last Sunday after church, I brought my daughter, granddaughter, Mother, and a bowl of cookie batter to my sister Doris’ house. We joined her and her daughter, two granddaughters, and my niece Joyous and her daughter. We had lunch together and then decorated Easter cookies and made chocolate peanut butter eggs.

Doris, Kate, Mother, Joyous, Abby after the sugar cookies were baked. (Great Grandma Herr’s Sugar Cakes, p. 261, BLUSH)

Another way to describe our time together would be that we are making a “grand sandwich” a new name for four-generation families — grandparents squeezed between grandchildren and elders.

Lydia and Mother share the walker. They are 90 years apart in age and both precious to me.

Since moving back to Pennsylvania, I have been able to join three siblings and two friends who have put a support system in place for Mother so that she can continue to live independently in her apartment at Landis Homes. She has at least one visitor/helper every day. My usual day is Sunday when we take Mother out or invite her to eat with us at our house. Often we have granddaughter Lydia with us too. Sometimes daughter Kate and/or son-in-law Nik join us.

Lydia and Mother have been connected since 2017, the year Lydia was born and niece Joyous brought Mother to Pittsburgh to meet the new baby and take pictures. 

Mother taught Lydia to play “Button, Button, Who Has the Button?”

Mother has 21 great grandchildren. Lydia is fourth from the youngest. Little William Bollinger is 95 years younger. The grand sandwich, connecting grandchildren with elders, stretches wide. It gives us nearly 200 years of collective memory.

I spent most of a day writing and revising the above blog post. But I could have “written” it in 5 seconds by using Artificial Intelligence. “Bard” by Google gave me this result when I requested a blog post about the grandsandwich generation. In a few seconds I had a complete blog post below.


The “Grandsandwich Generation” is a term used to describe the growing number of people who are caring for both their aging parents and their grandchildren. This group is often caught in the middle of two generations, with financial and emotional demands on either end.

There are many reasons why someone might become a member of the Grandsandwich Generation. Some people choose to care for their parents as they age, while others are forced to do so when their parents become unable to care for themselves. Some people also choose to care for their grandchildren, while others are forced to do so when their children are unable to care for them.

No matter how it happens, becoming a member of the Grandsandwich Generation can be a difficult and challenging experience. There are many financial and emotional demands on this group, and they often feel like they are pulled in two different directions.

If you are a member of the Grandsandwich Generation, there are a few things you can do to cope with the challenges you face:

  • Talk to someone. It can be helpful to talk to someone about what you are going through. This could be a friend, family member, therapist, or anyone else you trust.
  • Seek professional help. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist can help you develop coping mechanisms and strategies for dealing with the challenges you face.
  • Take care of yourself. It is important to take care of yourself both physically and emotionally. This means eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and doing things that you enjoy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many resources available to help members of the Grandsandwich Generation. These resources could include financial assistance, respite care, or emotional support.

Being a member of the Grandsandwich Generation can be a difficult and challenging experience, but it is also an important one. You are making a difference in the lives of your loved ones, and you are helping to create a better future for generations to come.


Which blog post did you enjoy more? Learn more from? Have you played with either Chatgpt or Bard?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Janet Givens on March 31, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Wow, Shirley. Just wow. My experience with AI has, until now, been from afar. Articles and others’ experiences — mostly warning of the dangers — have kept me from exploring further. Then here you are, going where none of my friends (overtly anyway) have gone before. Kudos to you. And while I always enjoy your voice, I got more from the “Bard” than I ever would have guessed. The voice, though, was conspicuously different. I’m going to try this now on my soon to go live blog post on Trust. Thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on March 31, 2023 at 4:48 pm

      Janet, if you have Google, you might find it easiest to use Bard. My brother was the first to experiment with Chatgpt, and I had to admit it was amazing. It gets most things right, but sometimes it is funny. I asked it to write me a blog post about pickleball. It said the net was 6 feet high! However, this kind of error will be the easiest to correct. The scary part of AI is that as it develops, it could in fact begin to sound and look just like me, or anyone else, especially public figures. O brave new world!

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on March 31, 2023 at 3:51 pm

    I enjoyed your blog post best because it was personal What a bunch of vibrant people! Your mom is so fortunate to age so well and to have people around her who are willing to look after her needs!. I have not experimented with either chatgpt or Bard. It feels like another new thing I don’t think I need. Does that give me away as an “old person”?!

    • Shirley Showalter on March 31, 2023 at 4:57 pm

      Ha, Elfrieda. “It feels like another new thing I don’t think I need.” Actually, you are right, and I understand the feeling exactly. I heard a podcast interview with the writer Scott Russel Sanders who said he has never joined any form of social media. I had a twinge of jealousy when he said that. I have had many wonderful experiences here online and the cost/benefit analysis still yields a slight surplus of benefit. But I am much more aware of the costs than I was in 2008 when I first tried out Facebook. Those bishops of my youth were right about some things. Radio, TV, the internet, and now AI — all can be terrible tools of evil in the wrong hands. And all steal time from us. A1, of course, will be sold on the basis of saving time and money. It will. And then it won’t. Or it will do terrible things we can’t even imagine until we have come to rely on it. My experiments with it are a test to see how good it is.

  3. Pamela on April 1, 2023 at 8:07 am

    I love your personal post about grandsandwiching. It’s a fascinating topic. Being a grandmother who for years visited my mother (with dementia in an assisted living place) with my daughter and grandchildren was an amazing experience. It was heartrending as well, seeing my vibrant mom not understand who her great-grandchildren were, and yet they brought her smiles.
    I like “real” writing from personal experiences. AI is scary and will never (I hope) take the place of REAL writing and feelings.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 10:42 am

      You know well the grandsandwich experience, Pam, in a heart rending way. Every interaction we have with our parent in the presence of our grandchildren is an opportunity to demonstrate how deep the wells of love are in our family. When dementia and/or infirmity are present, we go even deeper..

      AI can never substitute for that kind of depth even if it learns to imitate it.

  4. Marian Beaman on April 1, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Happy faces munching cookies, what could be better? Today I’ll serve lemon drop and chocolate chip cookies for a launch party at our home. Daughter Crista, who couldn’t attend, baked them. Soon I’ll take them out of the freezer and DIL Sarah will help serve them this afternoon.

    I wrote in my review of your book on grand-parenting: “As a grandparent of four teens, this book invited me to reminisce and pause to consider my legacy.” Your photo essay is a live illustration!

    This story struck a happy note for me and also a bittersweet one: all the relatives I have cherished in the previous generation have gone to glory. I know we’ll meet again, but I miss them so very much. About AI: authors and writing coaches are insisting that AI can never provide the personal touch–at least not now. I hope not ever! Of course I prefer yours, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 10:52 am

      Marian, happy launch party day!! I hope you and all who come will enjoy the bounty of your baking heritage in the place where your marriage memoir is an ongoing event. 🙂

      Most of my friends, even ones in their 60s and 70s, have also lost their parents, so I am aware of how lucky I am to do crossword puzzles with my mother and hear her say, “I like words.” To hear her laugh and enjoy being with the family.

      And, yes, AI will only imitate, never comprehend, that kind of love.

  5. Marian Beaman on April 1, 2023 at 10:42 am

    Just noticed that the Washington Post discussed how families are adapting within the sandwich generation, underscoring the idea that the “stress remains.” The Showalter family highlights the joys. Thank God!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 10:53 am

      Yes, I am pondering the enormous changes in work, church, community, and family that Covid wrought. We have not seen the end of them and can’t comprehend all the meaning of what we do see.

  6. Tina Barbour on April 1, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Your post has so much more life and heart, Shirley. I skimmed the AI version— and I WANTED to skim it. I didn’t skim yours because it was a sharing of a story, a message. The AI version gives info. Maybe that is the best use for AI— giving basic info?

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 7:49 pm

      Tina. AI is still limited to a quick amalgamation of data that anyone could find if they took the time. But the limits currently evident could disappear. There are people who are creating AI replicas of human beings –voice, mannerisms, any writing or speaking available online and creating virtual clones. There was a TED radio hour episode this week that described this. The guest has his own TED talk: See what you think.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 8:05 pm

      This link gets you to the interview with Artur Sychov at the end. Which is where he describes the near cloning process he is counting on to be ready for the day when science actually overcomes death. Fascinating, scary, stuff.

  7. Maren C. Tirabassi on April 1, 2023 at 4:57 pm

    My time is now past but it was fifteen years caring for three elders with Alzheimers ‘ diagnosis (very different for each )and one with lifelong mental illness.. Donald and I are both only children. without our two teen and college aged children we would never have made it.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 1, 2023 at 8:03 pm

      Oh Maren, that sounds like such overwhelming challenge. What learning your children did along with you. May future generations be spared that kind of immersion. The sandwich metaphor does not begin to approximate your circumstance. You were in the whirlwind, I imagine.

  8. Marlena Fiol on April 3, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    AI is truly amazing!!! But can it ever replace the words of someone I hold dear? No.
    Your mother and granddaughter photo is precious, Shirley!!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 3, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      Thank you, Marlena! It truly is a joy to see the two of them together. Mother’s hearing and vision keeps her from playing as much as she would like, but we find ways around that. Can AI say the same? Not yet, anyway.

  9. Melodie on April 4, 2023 at 2:04 pm

    I didn’t mind the Ai addition to your more personal blog post, because it provided good info succinctly. I’m not very inclined to try it, but that could change.

    When I’m writing a post, I tend to try and include interest catching personal stories first, and then factual info (Ai type?) toward the end which I find help with online. So …

    Thanks for this interesting post!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 4, 2023 at 2:14 pm

      Melodie, we have the same approach: stories first and then then facts. You have made a career out of this type of writing. I have learned from you. Thank you.

  10. Laurie Buchanan on April 5, 2023 at 6:32 pm

    Shirley — I’m with Elfrieda. I enjoyed your blog post way more because it was personal. It included tidbits about family and supporting photographs. Happy Easter to you and yours.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 6, 2023 at 9:39 am

      Thanks, Laurie. Hope you and yours have a Happy Easter too!

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