From virtual visitations to increasing cremations, celebrations of life are changing

The National Funeral Directors Association predicts that nearly four out of five Americans will choose cremation over a casket burial by 2040.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 12:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — When it comes to death and celebrating life, there is a change happening across the country. Elisa Krcilek says the number of cremations at Mountain View Funeral Home in Mesa accelerated by more than 15% during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the National Funeral Directors Association projects nearly four out of five Americans will choose cremation over a casket burial by 2040.

Of the Americans who died in 2021, more than 57% were cremated, according to the Cremation Association of North America. “When I came into the funeral business in 1990, cremation was at 11%. Today here in Arizona, you’re looking at about 75%,” Krcilek said. “People have chosen cremation for a lot of different reasons. A lot of it is dictated, believe it or not, by religion and people are moving away from strict religious beliefs.”

Convenience and cost are also factors. “People are very mobile today. People want to be able to have some time to make decisions,” Krcilek said. “With cremation, there are so many things you can do with cremated remains that you just simply cannot do with a burial. There are pendants. There are memory stones. There are different types of glass paperweights that people make. It’s amazing what you can do as a memorial.”

The median cost of a funeral with cremation is about $6,971, according to NFDA, while the median cost of a funeral with a viewing and burial is $7,848. “Cremation can be less expensive, but it can also be more expensive depending on where you see the value and what you’re looking for,” Krcilek said.

The pandemic also changed the way families plan funerals. Services are streamed, and visitations are different. “Old school was you go to a visitation and you might wait an hour and a half in line to get one minute with the next of kin to hug on them, love on them, and then, ‘oh, got to keep the line moving,’” Krcilek said. “Now people do video tributes and they say, ‘Well, let me share a memory.’ So now those next of kin can hear those stories and those memories in a different format.”

According to the NFDA’s 2022 cremation and burial report, technology that was introduced in response to the pandemic will continue to play a pivotal role in funerals moving forward. “Funeral homes are predicted to continue to expand this and other offerings – such as virtual funerals and an increasing array of options to meet the needs of families with diverse cultural and faith traditions – in the future,” the report said. Krcilek agrees. “Absolutely,” she said. “Being able to do everything virtual, it’s the way people do business today.”