According to most recent Australian funeral industry research consumers are seeking greater involvement in funerals - wanting the opportunity to express themselves and be involved in the planning and service.
Coupled with the additional trend - people are clearly responding to environmental issues in all industries, including the funeral industry.
According to a recent study by the National Funeral Directors Association:
- a mere 13 per cent of adults want a very traditional funeral service;
- of those interested in having a funeral of some type, 68 per cent would like to customise the event; and
- nearly 75 per cent prefer to prearrange their own service.
Baby boomers have never followed tradition, and planning their funerals is no exception: they have always wanted to do things their way. We now employ wedding planners to organise our wedding, travel consultants for our holidays, business coaches for help with our business, personal trainers to help us keep fit.
Baby boomers are not tied to tradition. They are the ones who really started rewriting their wedding vows, rewrote their birthing ceremonies: rewriting and challenging the accepted norms.
Funeral directors across Australia, and globally, would confirm this generation has altered the way they are planning funerals and this, in turn, will have a large impact on the death care business. Just as they lived their lives somewhat off the beaten path, boomers are also not going to be happy with "cookie cutter" funerals.
It’s all about me
Baby boomers want customised funeral arrangements with personalised touches. You may enter the funeral home to the tune of rock music and a display of memorabilia of the person's life. The coffin will often be a custom design - eco is the new emerging product. According to industry researchers … baby boomers want to go out having as much fun as they had when they were here.
It is highly unlikely that the boomers will go quietly - or conventionally - when their time comes. Progressive funeral directors have had to change from a “here's what we have” mentality to a “what would you like?” mentality.
In my past six years of research and the establishment of LifeArt Australia I have spoke with hundreds of funeral directors and held forums and interviews with all age groups. Funeral directors all tell me how much families have changed over the years.
Annette Lourigan, from Brisbane, has worked in the funeral industry for 10 years and in this time she's seen more people each year planning their own funerals. Annette told me:
When I started, it was very common for people to come in after a loved one died and have no idea what that person wanted. They would look to the funeral director to guide them through all the planning and provide all the suggestions. … that has really changed. People will now state or request things from the funeral arranger, have songs already selected, ask what alternatives are possible (such as a park location instead of a chapel for the service).
Like my colleagues in the industry we have done an incredible range of services - things probably never dreamt of 10 or 15 years ago. Fancy dress theme, bush music and dance, services in the farm barn, just really to many to tell. I have used coffins with designs created by a collage of family photos, rural scene with Stockman, photos of people’s boats, dogs, favourite place, and now so many people painting and signing the coffin.
I also believe pre planning or informing family/partners about their funeral plans will certainly grow. It is not a taboo subject any longer, with the majority agreeing some planning needs to be done. A lot of people today have gone through the process of their parents dying with no ideas or plans of what to do or what could be best for their parents, and they don't want that to happen to their kids.
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