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The public’s preference for cremation continues to rise, but this practical and affordable option wasn’t always so popular. The first cremation was carried out on 26th March 1885, at Woking, and the deceased was a Mrs Jeannette C. Pickersgill.
In part due to the Victorian fascination with death and mourning and in part due to religious beliefs of the time, there were just three officially recognised cremations across England, Scotland and Wales only that year, and only one crematorium.
Traditional funerals with burials were the first choice. Indeed, Victorian attitudes shaped the funeral service with a burial as we recognise it today.
But while traditional funeral services with burials still look similar, public attitude has certainly changed. 71% of over-65s now choose cremation vs burial.
So why have attitudes changed, and what does this mean for individuals considering funeral arrangements today?
“Thinking more practically and philosophically as we get older”
One reason could be that as we get older we feel less inclined to follow convention and more inclined to do what we feel is best for us.
A survey carried out by YouGov in 2016 seems to support this. Only 42% of 18-24-year-olds said they wanted to be cremated when they passed away compared to the much higher 71% reported by over-65s.
“One of the conclusions that could perhaps be drawn from the poll was that as people got older attitudes to death changed, and rather than keep with tradition people were more inclined to think philosophically and practically.”
As we approach later life, we understand more clearly what’s important to us. We are also less afraid of not following convention and putting ourselves and our families first.
For increasing numbers of over-65s, this means making more affordable and practical funeral arrangements in lieu of a costly burial that isn’t important to them.
The rising popularity of cremations and Direct Cremation can be matched against the increasing costs of funeral services.
Insurer Royal London recently reported a 3% rise on average funeral costs totalling £3,784, with more expensive traditional funeral services with burials bringing this average up.
For individuals who don’t feel obligated to arrange a traditional funeral service, the prospect of putting aside for these costs can sting.
Others are finding that they simply can’t afford them. One in five families goes into debt following a funeral, borrowing on average £1,680 to pay for the funeral and burial of a loved one.
Many over-65s don’t want to put this financial pressure on their families, leading them to consider cremation as a more affordable alternative.
The shift in public attitude towards cremation has led some funeral directors to introduce Direct Cremations as the least expensive and most practical option.
Direct Cremation is the simple process of cremating a body without a service or funeral. Without the added costs that funeral services incur, it is the most affordable funeral option available.
Cost isn’t the only factor. People choose Direct Cremation for a wide range of personal, often private reasons, and it, too, is growing in popularity.
In 2016, singer David Bowie and Booker Prize-winning writer Anita Brookner both chose for their bodies to be cremated without a funeral service.
Our own figures support this: In 2017, we will carry out over 2,000 such cremations at our crematoria across the UK, compared to less than 20 in 2015.
Other reasons for the increase in cremations over burials includes the lessening of religious conviction across the general public and the recent trend towards families and friends wanting to celebrate a person’s life rather than “attending their death”.
For some people, deciding between cremation vs burial is simple. Other times, it can be a much more challenging decision.
This is especially true if a loved one has passed suddenly or unexpectedly, forcing what can feel like a hurried or unplanned decision.
Whatever the circumstances, seeking the support and advice of a funeral home can help. Wherever you look, staff should be able to explain very clearly the features and benefits of their cremation and traditional funeral service plans in a manner sensitive to your circumstances, so you can choose the right arrangements for you.
Memoria brings 90 years of collective experience serving the bereaved in every way. Our dedicated, compassionate team are here to explain your options and help you to make the right choice, whatever your circumstances. Whether you’d like to discuss an affordable cremation or arrange a pre-planned funeral, we are happy to help.