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Final Wishes: How Funerals are Evolving

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Shortly after a collection of memorial stones caught Adrienne Kloecker-Kalivoda’s eye at a funeral directors convention last fall, the Kloecker Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc. in Erie, Pennsylvania, made an addition to its service offerings.

Kloecker, an ERIE commercial Customer, became one of more than 600 funeral homes to partner with Parting Stone, a company that turns cremated remains into polished stones for survivors to remember loved ones.

Though it represents only a sliver of Kloecker’s business, the alternative to traditional burials reflects a shifting market seeking new forms of remembrance.

“There are various reasons people approach funerals differently,” said Randy Anderson, former president of the National Funeral Directors Association. “I think the biggest reasons are economical, environmental and embracing having a personal choice.”

And while some alternatives to conventional funerals, like green funerals and liquid cremation, have gained popularity on the fringes, other trends have become part of the mainstream.

Cremation Surges

Long lagging behind traditional burials, cremation became the top choice in 2015, chosen by more than half of families by 2022, according to the NFDA, with cremation rates predicted to continue rising.

“Cremation kind of hits all the points that people are looking for,” Kloecker-Kalivoda said. “It’s less expensive, it’s more environmentally friendly and you get more personalization.”

According to a 2021 NFDA study, the median price of a cremation funeral and viewing is $6,970 while a funeral with a viewing and a burial in a vault totals $9,420. And while cost is certainly a key driver, cultural factors also play a significant role in the trend toward cremation.

Some religions long restricted cremation but have loosened rules around the practice. In addition, many people—regardless of religious affiliation—are seeking alternatives to traditional funeral ceremonies.

New Traditions

The cremation boom has made “celebrations of life” popular ways of remembering those who have passed. These ceremonies, tending to be more informal and taking place outside of traditional funeral settings, often take on a more celebratory tone.

“People take the cremated remains to a meaningful place, where they maybe share memories or have dinner and laugh and cry together,” Kloecker-Kalivoda said.

While funeral rituals have shifted for decades—viewing hours have been decreasing for years, for example— the COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated change.

When early pandemic restrictions limited gatherings, funerals were one of many events that took virtual form. Livestreaming funerals, once rare, became the norm.

The trend stuck. Many funeral homes, including Kloecker, now offer livestreaming as standard, opening funeral viewing to remote audiences.

Looking Ahead

The pandemic also prompted more people to think about their own mortality. Funeral pre-planning has gained popularity in recent years, according to Anderson, who operates Radney Funeral Home in Alexander City, Alabama.

“Having talked to those in the industry around the country, there’s more interest in (preplanning),” he said. “I think a large part of that is due to potential economic concerns, as well as the peace of mind it offers. I’ve never had someone say they regretted preplanning.”

Preplanning can also offer locked rates as well as ease the emotional decision-making that comes with a loved one’s death.

While preplanning can help remove uncertainty for future funerals, predicting what types of rituals will be fashionable in future years might prove more challenging. Funeral customs are changing, and practices are likely to continue taking different forms in the years ahead.

But experts stress that the value of celebrating those who have died will remain.

“The gathering of people, the funeral, all the things we do are so important to the grieving process,” Kloecker- Kalivoda said. “So, even when people say, ‘I want cremation and I don’t want visiting hours,’ that’s fine, but I always tell them it’s important to do something to remember.”

Cover Final Expenses with Erie Family Life

Death is a certainty for all of us, but the ability to commemorate our lives isn’t necessarily guaranteed. That’s what makes final expense coverage offered by Erie Family Life Insurance Company so valuable.

Final expense coverage is available with a whole life policy, and its proceeds can cover funeral costs as well as estate fees, unpaid debt and more.

Getting a policy for final expenses doesn’t have to be difficult. ERIExpress Life, life insurance designed with simplicity in mind, offers a whole life option that you can apply for through a straightforward application process with a faster review time.

Your ERIE Agent can walk you through some additional advantages of purchasing a policy for final expense coverage. Give them a call to discuss your options.

ERIE® life insurance products and services are provided by Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home office: Erie, Pennsylvania). Erie Family Life Insurance Company is not licensed to operate in all states. Go to erieinsurance.com for company licensure information. The insurance products described in this story are in effect as of June 2023 and may be changed at any time. Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this story. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. The insurance products and services described in this story are not offered in all states. ERIE life insurance products are not available in New York. Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

ERIExpress Life application contains medical questions. All applications are subject to underwriting approval, and certain health conditions may require a fully underwritten life policy instead.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of July 2022 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.

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