News Opinion Article from the Final Arrangements News Journal
Funeral Homes have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to what the Internet can and will do for them.
Seniors Need to Talk About Death. "Final Arrangements, that Expensive Little Secret."
Seniors rarely talk about death and final arrangements, yet they need to be discussed.
Death. The Expensive Little Secret, Seniors Need to Talk About.
by RW Ward
In a youth crazed society is it any wonder almost nowhere do you find organizations, magazines, websites and newspapers, supposedly devoted to informing seniors about the one thing that lays at the end of that so called golden road of retirement bliss, Death.
You hear all about where to spend your money on trips, orthopedic beds, motorized scooters, so called healthy living products, insurance and anything else some marketing company, or to be honest about it, the very organization supposedly doing the “informing”, can come up with to sell to this exploding population sector of 50 plus adults. A population growing so fast that everyday 10,000 Americans turn 50 and will do so for the next 15 years.
Yet, despite the full-page magazine ads and websites’ popup, flashing bill boarded and newsletter sign up pages, pushing the membership enrollments, auto and home insurance, prescription cards and advice add-nauseum death doesn’t even get a mention. Whether it is this society’s fear of the very word death or its obsession with possessions, which, lets face it, when death comes possessions become a mute point, nobody wants to talk about it. The one exception to this rule is AARP, who has devoted a goodly amount of web pages to the subject on their site at www.aarp.org/griefandloss/.
We will discuss forever dad’s Alzheimer’s disease, mom’s diabetes, where we should buy that retirement home and where to spend the winter, but we won’t talk about what we’re going to do, if tomorrow, somebody isn’t here anymore.
Yet, when that day comes, armed with extreme emotion, stress and grief the survivors will venture out into that world of death care salesmen and pay whatever we are told it will cost. Since we never talked about what to do nor did most of our senior watchdog organizations spend much time discussing the subject, we won’t have a clue when the funeral or burial pitch starts what is real and what is Memorex.
In a 1989 book published by Reader’s Digest, *The Consumer Adviser, the editors stated, “While few people are comfortable about discussing funerals in advance, it is really a very poor idea to decide on arrangements under the pressure of time and emotional stress.” Since the publication of those words little has changed when it comes to death and what is done when it occurs to, either, shed light on options or change the way we American’s mourn our deceased loved ones.
We still are buying expensive caskets, having loved ones embalmed (incidentally, not a law required by any state in the U.S. unless the body must be transported across state lines), buying thousands of dollars worth of flowers, displaying loved ones in rooms that cost more than some suites in the finest hotels in the world do per day, and generally never knowing if any of this was what the loved one, we are doing this to, would have wanted in the first place.
What should we do about this? Everyone who is or will soon be over 50 should do at least the following;
· Talk about death. Talk about it like you would if you were thinking about a vacation spot or buying a car or anything you are going to spend thousands of your family’s money on.
· Get some facts. Use the Internet and find some sites that discuss things like final arrangements, preplanning, cremation arrangements, funerals, etc.
· Do a search in Google, MSN, AOL, etc. for things like cemetery lots for sale and get some pricing on what it would cost if you actually had to pay today for a loved ones funeral and burial.
· Use some of the free online final arrangements preplanning programs on the Internet like the ones at www.finalarrangementsnetwork.com or www.thefuneraldirectory.com/planityourway/. They’re free to plan and use and re-plan and you don’t have to spend a dime. Unlike most supposed preplanning sites on the Internet, these two don’t request a name, address and phone number so some friendly death care salesman can call you up and, you guessed it, sell you. At planityourway you do have to become a free member but there is nothing beyond that.
· Once you know what you want to have done for you, tell your family, write it down, give to your lawyer, account, somebody. Don’t put this plan in your will or that drawer in your bedroom where it won’t get read until long after its instructions are needed.
Death is not one of anybody’s favorite topics, except the people in the death care business, but as the U.S. population begins its 30 years of “baby boomers” aging and dying it should be something you and every member of your family has that discussion about and soon. The death rate in the U.S. is currently at 2.4 million per year. It will grow by 50% and reach nearly 3.6 million by 2032. This fact will make the numbers of people close to someone who just died increase and the costs of those funerals even more expensive than they are now.
If buyers and the eventual users of funeral services don’t educate themselves they will still do what Reader’s Digest pointed out we did nearly 24 years ago, *“Few consumers would ordinarily admit to spending $5,000 or more on something that they know little or nothing about. Yet everyday thousands of Americans do just that when a family member dies. On short notice, with their judgment often clouded by grief or guilt, they turn to the nearest funeral director to tell them what to do.”
*The Consumer Adviser (pages 325-326), copyright 1989 The Readers Digest.