Like everything else they've touched, Baby Boomers are redefining how people prepare for the end of their life. One new trend is the ethical will. Instead of just preparing a legal document that divvies up their loot, Boomers are creating something that will leave behind not just their valuables, but their values. These ethical wills are part family history, part personal story and part guidepost through the dearly departed's value system. They allow the dead to be remembered for who they were, rather than just what they had.
Boomers are all about their own individuality, and the end of their lives is just one more chance to place their own stamp on the world. Gone are the days of the quiet, somber memorials and reading of the will. Instead, Boomers are putting on a show. They don't want to be memorialized -- they want to be celebrated. What Boomers want is an experience that they feel will best sum up their life. They don't see themselves as stuffy, somber entities -- they're young, they're hip -- they're the Boomers. So they're taking matters into their own hands to ensure they get the service and experience they want, bringing new consumer expectations and fewer attachments to churches and time-honored traditions. This shift has funeral directors scrambling to double as party planners.
One factor that is playing into this reinvention of the funeral is the rise in popularity of cremation. According to the Cremation Association of North America, 31 percent of Americans were cremated in 2004, up from just 6 percent in 1975. And that number is expected to rise. Cremation means no body at the service, which makes it easier to forgo the somber tone.
Also, Boomers are rethinking what to do with the remains that they leave behind. One idea is the concept of the eco-cemetery. People are buried un-embalmed in a shallow hole without a casket, then their body becomes fertilizer for the wildflowers that grow. This option also helps preserve the land by designating it a cemetery, which ensures that no developer can build on top of you.
For Boomers looking for something ever-lasting, a company in Chicago, LifeGem, will extract 8 ounces of someone's cremated remains and compress it to create an actual diamond. You could wear your loved one and keep them close to your heart for the rest of your life!
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