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How do Baby Boomers view funerals?

by | Mar 3, 2017 | For Families, Funeral Personalization

umbrella woman

It’s the generation that has always marched to the beat of its own drum.

From pop culture to counterculture, they’ve left a lasting influence on the world. They started new waves of activism with the civil rights, feminism, and environmental movements. They’ve given us Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, and the Beatles.

The Baby Boomers have left their mark on history, but they aren’t done yet. When it comes to funerals, they’re taking one last chance to leave a mark — and as they’ve always done, they’re doing it their way.

As the estimated 74 million Americans start to think about what they want, the funeral profession will have to adapt to meet the needs and changes the Boomers are going to bring.

What exactly will those changes be? Let’s look.

What Baby Boomers Want

A few years ago, the Funeral Service Foundation partnered with Olson Zaltman to conduct a survey that would allow them to better understand what it is Baby Boomers will want from a funeral service.

The survey consisted of lengthy interviews with a broad range of Boomers. Here some of the interesting things they found.

Thoughts on Traditional Funerals

When asked what they thought of traditional funeral settings, many replied with things like “a cold, sterile environment” or “cold and intimidating.”

Other themes they described during the interview included things like:

  • Lonely
  • Impersonal
  • Dark
  • Uneasy
  • Too controlled
  • No resolution, disconnected

For a generation that celebrates individualism, Boomers tend to see traditional funeral rituals as too impersonal. Boomers — after all — were the first generation to receive the “Me” Generation moniker.

Thoughts on Their Funeral

When the survey asked what they wanted in their own funeral service, the common themes were things like, “my story” or “celebrating my life, not marking my death.”

The main consensus that emerged was:

  • Personalized
  • Celebration
  • Sharing
  • Togetherness
  • “I mattered”
  • “Live on”


So what does this mean? The three big changes expected by Boomers will be personalization, preplanning, and green funerals.

Let’s break them down.

A Unique Sendoff

Personalization has already started making waves in the funeral profession. It’s everywhere — services, stationery, memorials, music, and more.

Boomers want their funeral to not simply be a service, but an experience. They want it to be engaging, memorable, and something that tells their whole story. Whether that means serving Starbucks after their ceremony or being buried in a casket designed after their favorite beer, Boomers want their final sendoff to tell a story about them.

The Star of the Show

Because Baby Boomers want more personalized funerals, they are playing a bigger role in preplanning arrangements. In past generations, discussing death was taboo. But more and more Baby Boomers want to have the conversation. They want to share their stories with funeral directors so that they know it’ll be translated into a celebration of their life.

In an interview with Southern California radio station KPCC, funeral celebrant Pam Vetter said that when it comes to planning, “There’s more of a hands-on approach. Plus, Baby Boomers know they’re consumers. They realize when they walk into the funeral home, they’re paying for a service. They’re not beholden to a pastor or a priest.”

Green Is the New Black

While some Boomers are opting for grand celebrations, others are taking a simpler route. The green or eco-friendly trend has been slowly rising, but the survey done by the Funeral Service Foundation argues that it’s about to make a bigger impact on the funeral profession.

Green funerals involve simpler, earth-friendlier options, meaning things like degradable wicker caskets, burial shrouds, or biodegradable urns.

Amy Cunningham, a famous writer turned funeral director, told the New York Times that “when the baby boom is of age and we’re actively leaving this world, the environmentally friendly approach will be business as usual.”

A New Chapter?

For decades — even centuries — our funeral traditions have remained relatively unchanged, influenced by religion and cultural traditions.

That’s why the survey into the insights of what Baby Boomers want from funeral service is an interesting one. Could the Boomers be ushering in a new era of funeral service altogether? The Boomer generation has always prided itself on individualism. As we look toward the future, the generations that follow — Gen X and Millennials (now the largest generation) — will most likely follow in the Boomers’ footsteps. The Boomers, as they’ve always done, are poised to change our traditions one last time.

Is your funeral home ready?

What are your thoughts on the Baby Boomer impact on funeral service? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


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