Rise in CremationsAmerican living and dying customs have changed considerably in the past 50 years. People move around more. They do not necessarily put down the kind of roots that used to support traditions such as burial in a family plot in a hometown cemetery. It is speculated that cremations may soon outnumber interments. Cost plays a large factor, especially since the economic downturn of 2008, and particularly in areas heavily hit by the recession. There is, too, a wider acceptance of cremation across cultural and religious groups. Finally, the fact that Americans today experience a high level of transience makes cremation a logical and practical choice over in-ground burial.

Space Is at a Premium

Casket burials are on the decline even for people who have stayed close to home. Diminishing space in existing cemeteries may be changing the scenario of funeral services dramatically. Cemetery directors may be embracing the cremation trend. There may be only so much land for casket burials, but a single columbarium, or niche wall, may accommodate a large number of inurnments. The move to create appropriate spaces for people to visit the cremated remains of their loved ones may keep cemeteries that might otherwise be forced to close open and functioning for many years to come.

The Challenge of the Military Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery has some of the strictest requirements for in-ground burials of deceased military personnel. As the baby boomer generation ages, burial space may be severely limited. Veterans who may qualify for interment at Arlington may have served in the Vietnam War or in any of the military engagements in which the United States has engaged in since then. While Arlington has plans to develop the last tract of land available to it, the focus may be shifting from burials to inurnments. Today, there are restrictions on who may qualify for interment. For example, in-ground interment is not available to:

  • Active servers who were part of a reserve component at time of death
  • Members who served in a foreign allied army at time of death

However, any military personnel who saw at least one day of active duty after training and who received an honorable discharge is eligible for an above-ground inurnment at Arlington.

The Economy of Death

While burial costs for interment may generally be higher than for cremation, the basic fees look somewhat similar. The difference starts to be apparent as the details come together. Both basic services may cost between $1,500 and $2,000. For burial, the final cost of funeral services is increased by the price of a casket, which may run into the thousands. An urn may cost around $300. In either situation, a memorial service may be an extra expense, as would a viewing of the body for a casket burial.

The New Memorial

Cremation has long been portrayed as a more ephemeral means of handling the remains of a loved one. In movies, television and often in life, people may scatter ashes in a place that held meaning for the person who died. The rise in popularity of the columbarium may be evidence that some people are choosing to hold onto the ashes and keep them in a place to where they may return to visit, just as with a gravesite. Inurnments may be a way to adjust to the modern dilemma of limited land while allowing for a more traditional grieving process.

The Shifting Ground of Funeral Services

In heavily developed cities, people may have to find more efficient ways to manage death, just as they must find efficient ways to live in a crowded environment. The uptick in the rate of cremations may demonstrate a trend toward facing the logistics of finite space, as well as a rejection of exorbitant funeral costs.

Category: Funeral

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