More Amer­i­cans, Coloradans choos­ing cre­ma­tion

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kevin Simp­son Kevin Simp­son: 303-954-1739, ksimp­son@den­ver­post.com or @ksimp­sondp

More than half of Amer­i­cans now choose cre­ma­tion over burial — an all­time high — and nearly three-fourths of Coloradans are pro­jected to join a trend driven by lower costs, fad­ing re­li­gious ta­boos and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to a fu­neral in­dus­try re­port.

Na­tion­ally, 50.2 per­cent chose cre­ma­tion last year. Colorado’s pro­jected cre­ma­tion rate of 73.6 per­cent in 2018 marks a rise from 70.3 per­cent in 2015 and ranks the state sixth in the U.S. At the same time, the state’s burial rate is pro­jected to drop from 21 per­cent in 2015 to 19 per­cent next year.

Cre­ma­tion rate pro­jec­tions for 2018 range from Ne­vada’s high of 78.8 per­cent to Mis­sis­sippi’s low of 24.1 per­cent. While only 16 states had cre­ma­tion rates over 50 per­cent in 2010, the re­port pre­dicts that 44 states will pass that thresh­old in the next eight years.

Over­all, the trend re­flects a va­ri­ety of rea­sons be­hind the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of cre­ma­tion, but high on the list is con­ve­nience, said Chuck Bow­man, a Colorado fu­neral di­rec­tor and trea­surer of the Na­tional Fu­neral Di­rec­tors As­so­ci­a­tion, which com­mis­sioned the study. Sta­tis­ti­cal pro­jec­tions were com­piled by the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin-Madi­son.

“Fam­i­lies have spread across the coun­try so much, we’re such a mo­bile so­ci­ety, that part of it is that it cre­ates a con­ve­nience for them,” said Bow­man. “We can have a memo­rial ser­vice in six weeks, six months or six years, for that mat­ter. We don’t have to rush back to the home town to have a fu­neral.”

Cre­ma­tions out­pace buri­als

A fu­neral in­dus­try re­port says more half of Amer­i­cans picked cre­ma­tion over burial, com­pared with nearly three-quar­ters of Coloradans. Place Colorado Mis­sis­sippi Ne­vada United States Buri­als 2010 28.5% 84.6% 16.1% 53.3%

Mo­bil­ity con­trib­utes to the higher rate of cre­ma­tion in Colorado, where the pop­u­la­tion boom in­cludes many trans­plants. But Bow­man notes en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as an­other key fac­tor within the state.

“Some want to scat­ter in the Colorado moun­tains, and that adds to it,” he said. “We have a lot of peo­ple mov­ing here from Cal­i­for­nia who also are very en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious. En­vi­ron­ment is a huge fac­tor.” 2015 21.4% 77.3% 20.0% 45.2% 2018 18.6% 74.0% 18.1% 40.6% 2020 17.1% 71.9% 17.2% 37.8% 2025 2030 13.8% 9.2% 66.5% 61.2% 14.5% 9.7% 30.3% 22.7%

The re­port noted that the de­cline in tra­di­tional fu­ner­als tracks with the rise in Amer­i­cans who no longer iden­tify with any re­li­gion. The num­ber of peo­ple over age 40 who feel a re­li­gious com­po­nent is “very im­por­tant” in the fu­neral of a loved one has dropped by 10 per­cent­age points in the last five years to 39.5 per­cent.

Cre­ma­tion also typ­i­cally costs less than fu­ner­als that in­clude burial — some­times about one-third of the ex­pense, although Cre­ma­tions 2010 2015 63.3% 70.3% 13.8% 20.9% 70.0% 75.6% 40.4% 47.9% 2018 73.6% 24.1% 78.8% 53.3% that gap nar­rows when fac­tor­ing in ad­di­tional ser­vices that can ac­com­pany either op­tion. Cre­ma­tion ac­counts for only 7.2 per­cent of in­dus­try rev­enue.

The shift­ing con­sumer pref­er­ence has prompted the fu­neral ser­vice in­dus­try to “rein­vent the wheel,” Bow­man said, as it re­sponds to a trend that is ex­pected to con­tinue for decades. By 2035, the cre­ma­tion rate is pro­jected to be close to 80 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. Nearly 30 per­cent of fu­neral 2020 75.0% 26.3% 79.7% 56.2% 2025 78.3% 31.6% 82.3% 63.8% 2030 82.9% 37.0% 87.2% 71.3% homes op­er­ate their own cre­ma­to­ries and an ad­di­tional 9 per­cent plan to add them within five years.

“Fu­neral ser­vice has seen it com­ing, we try to pre­pare for it, we un­der­stand the thought process around it by fam­i­lies,” Bow­man said. “Now, we’re try­ing to guide and ed­u­cate fam­i­lies in the right way to do it.”

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