Memorial Trends Among the Generations

When considering your plans to reach customers, it’s important to think through the generational differences that affect families’ decisions. Each generation has its own definition of what matters most. In Coldspring’s most recent research, performed in conjunction with Hanover Research, we examined the preferences of each generation and found some surprising results. Here, we present these findings and – perhaps more importantly – the action items you can take in response.

Before we begin, here are some quick definitions of the generations mentioned in our research:

    • Silent Generation: The demographic cohort following the Greatest Generation and preceding the Baby Boomers. The generation is generally defined as people born from 1928 to 1945.[1]
    • Baby Boomers: The demographic cohort following the Silent Generation and preceding Generation X. The generation is generally defined as people born from 1946 to 1964, during the post–World War II baby boom.[2]
    • Millennials: The demographic cohort following Generation X and preceding Generation Z. Researchers and popular media use the early 1980s as starting birth years and the mid-1990s to early 2000s as ending birth years, with 1981 to 1996 being a widely accepted defining range for the generation.[3]

Preplanning: 24% of Millennial respondents say they have preplanned for themselves, while only 9% of Baby Boomers have preplanned. Surprised?
Action: Our research also indicates that Millennials outpace Generation X and Baby Boomers in having planned at-need or pre-need services for others. With this Millennial influence, have you changed the way you promote preplanning to reach this audience? This group will have done their research online and will value transparency and the ability to personalize all aspects of pre-planning to fit their vision. A strong digital presence with DIY aspects that allow them to drive the experience are key to reaching this important influencer.


Burial: Our research shows that 69% of Baby Boomers are likely to prefer cremation while younger generations are more likely to choose traditional burial over cremation (Millennials 42%; Generation X 50%.) Further, burial is more likely to be chosen for those who had their funeral planned by someone else.
Action: While current cremation trends would indicate that traditional casketed burial is falling out of favor, insights based on the survey imply that younger generations and at-need families may simply not be fully aware of their options. There is an opportunity to educate them on the benefits

Piepenburg butterfly granite memorialPlacement of Cremains: Older generations are significantly more likely to choose traditional placement of their cremains in a cemetery or religious place (52%) than all other generations. Millennials are more likely to want their cremains stored at home (48%) or in a natural place (33%).
Action: Expand your offering to include natural, welcoming spaces such as gardens to appeal to younger generations. Un-formalize the cemetery by making it less somber and more welcoming. Create a space that’s used by all and builds happy memories families can incorporate into celebrations of life. Such areas might include reception areas for community events, holiday celebrations and more.

Religious Services: Millennials are more likely to live a non-religious lifestyle than older generations. Still, their religious or spiritual values are important to them.
Action: Remain open to how services are planned for Millennials. Millennials will likely want to have a celebration of life but without the more formal ceremonial aspect or traditional service.

Sources of Information: Funeral home directors are the #1 source of information across all generations by far, followed by cemetery consultants and friends and family. Not surprisingly, Millennials stand out from other generations in also referencing online reviews to learn more.
Action: Remain actively involved in the community and maintain a vibrant online presence. Consider ways to partner with others in the industry to provide the best options available to meet the needs of all family members you serve.

santa clara mission cemetery mausoleum complex

Permanent Placement: The rise in cremation leads us to review how the generations look toward permanent placement of cremains. When preplanning, more than half of the silent generation prefers placement of their remains within a cemetery whereas all other generations prefer home placement.
Action: Remain vigilant in educating families of the importance of securing a safe and permanent placement for cremated remains. Although it may be difficult to part with a family member immediately, securing a final resting place that can be visited by friends, family and future generations is important in leaving behind and marking a legacy of a life well lived.

The Industry’s Response    

Educating all generations on options for celebrating and capturing a person’s legacy that fit with what’s most important to them will be critically important. Take action by offering a broad range of services to meet the needs of each age group – for both pre-planning and at-need. If the range of services isn’t broad enough, cemeteries and funeral homes should expand their offerings for remembrance and permanent memorialization to meet the needs of a changing audience.

To learn more about how your cemetery or funeral home can reach the generations and respond to the evolving needs in the marketplace, contact your Coldspring representative today.


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