How many of you have spoken on a panel about estate planning? Alongside a financial planner and funeral director, you stand and speak about cemetery expenses and the need to prepay your fees to lock in today’s prices to a medium sized crowd of donut and coffee filled attendees only to hear that because they are being cremated they don’t need your services anyway.
Fast forward 20 years, now in addition to the financial planner and cremationist, stands the curator of memorialization. The curator of memorialization is someone who gathers your online social imprint and provides a place on the internet for future generations to visit, share and even post their own memories of you as easy as swiping left to right. This online space is shaped by the guidelines you arrange for prior to death with your digital memorialization counselor. They help you shape the events you want your life to be defined by and design an online space to showcase them to whoever you decide should see them. Don’t like your brother’s kids, you can lock out the next two generations from posting memories. Want to showcase memories between you and your best friend, the software identifies that person and shows them a predetermined set of shared memories. Want to remind your son about the great time you shared at the baseball game, even after your passing? The software helps keep you remain a relevant part of the future.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Doesn’t this sound like something we do? Don’t we provide a place to remember someone, don’t we provide a monument with images and text that defines individuals lives? We send out an anniversary card…don’t we? So why would people stop choosing to use a cemetery? Well, many have already chosen to stop using cemeteries. The increase in popularity of cremation may not be because it’s less expensive than traditional burial…it may just be because the body isn’t important anymore….it may be that it’s the memories that matter. Recently I attended a senior expo in which thousands of our targeted demographic attended. The overwhelming majority of people I spoke to are going to be cremated and when I asked what will happen to their ashes I received two answers: that’s my kid’s problem, and I’m going to be scattered or disposed of.
Facebook currently serves as the curator of memories for millions. Every event, picture and video we post is a memory which will ultimately serve to identify who we were. The fastest growing demographic in FB is baby boomers and according to a recent study done by Penn State University, 35% of US adults over 65 are now on FB. This isn’t only the reason to be on FB but the reason to start acting like them.
The digital revolution may not make cemeteries obsolete but certainly has provided an exciting alternate to the old tradition of visiting the cemetery to remember someone. Without the usual obstacles of time, distance and cost the cemeteries of the future could be as easily accessible as a quick swipe right on the cell phones of future generations.
If cemeterians want to remain a part of memorializing someone, we need to be digitally innovative! We need to embrace technology and go where our customers are…online. We need to remove the usual obstacles and develop ways for younger generations to remember and memorize their loved ones, by adapting our individual brand to include an online option in addition to or in lieu of physical burial or inurnment rights. Cemeteries of the future may not be filled with QR Codes, GPS locators or monuments projecting holograms, it may just be an app.