This is the third part in a series where we will explore new trends and ideas, their possible impact on funeral homes, as well as the opinions funeral directors have about the future of funerals. Read part two here.
Burial of the dead is one of the oldest human traditions. It’s immersed in rich cultural practices and religious beliefs. But as we’ve been learning lately, traditions are evolving.
With factors like the rise of cremation, secularism, and population growth, what are the impacts on our burial traditions? What will the cemetery of the future look like?
Cemeteries Are Not Static
In the past few years, there have been innovations when it comes to cemeteries:
- Cemetery plots can be viewed on digital maps online, similar to the way you would view concert seats online. This gives families the chance to see which plots are available from the comfort of their home.
- Some cemeteries allow for a 360-degree virtual tour. Virtual tours are helpful for families who have trouble making a trip out to the cemetery. They also provide different viewings of a cemetery to see what it might look like during different seasons.
- In addition to virtual tours, cemeteries allow for GPS navigation. Using your smartphone, you can find family plots easily when walking through the cemetery.
- The design ideas for cemeteries are changing. Some are opting to be more than a sprawling field of headstones and marble monuments. Cemeteries have landscapes similar to parks, with flower gardens, art sculptures, and giant trees.
- Cemeteries are becoming more interactive — bringing their rich history to life. Some modern cemeteries are offering community programs like nature walks, historic tours, and movie nights. New technology, like QR codes on memorials, allow for more personal and interactive experiences. Scanning the codes with a smartphone can launch a digital memorial or historical biography with a detailed profile of the person’s life, photos, family history, or even a pre-recorded message by the deceased. Imagine someone who lost a grandparent when they were young and never had the opportunity to learn much about their grandparent — they can scan the code and reveal a wealth of information about them.
Cemeteries today are starting to look vastly different than the simple church graveyard of 100 years ago.
As green and eco-conscious trends gain traction, a cemetery might abandon headstones and marble markers altogether. Some cemeteries might look more like a forest where families can come to reflect and visit a loved one.
There are bio-degradable urns offered for cremated remains that will sprout into a tree when planted into the ground. A similar capsule for full body burials also is currently being developed. There are hopes that “tree memorials” will gain in popularity.
But how would you find a specific location of a tree grave in memorial forests? A proposed solution is to use GPS to give specific coordinates to families to find their memorial tree. Incorporating a small QR code marker with the tree also could enhance the experience, giving each memorial tree their own personal story and history.
Keeping with green trends, another unique proposal has been the “Sylvan Constellation.”
The University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society held a contest for future cemetery designs, and the Sylvan Constellation won. The idea behind the design is to create glowing lights by using human biomass. The decomposing human matter is converted into an energy source that will emit light from structures known as “mourning lights.” Each light would be for a single person in the cemetery.
The winning design team from Columbia University hopes that one day the “mourning lights” will be used all around cities and serve as a reminder of the efforts and sacrifices of all those who came before us.
Land for burials has been another concern, especially in countries with high population density. There already are places that stack graves in mausoleum high rises, like this one in Brazil, but there also have been proposals of skyscrapers solely dedicated as cemeteries. One that stands out is the design by an architecture student in Norway.
The concept is a skyscraper with open floors. It will allow for traditional burial plots, and can expand when more space is needed. This urban cemetery is meant to serve as a practical burial ground for cities, as well as a memorial monument.
Several other designs for cities hard-pressed for space have been proposed, such as this garden and grave skyscraper for the city of Mumbai.
No one will know what the future of cemeteries will look like for certain. As new trends and technologies change how we approach the modern cemetery, it’s important that we remember their purpose. They are meant to act as both a meaningful reminder and lasting symbol of our loved ones.
Interested in learning more about the latest funeral trends? Click here to read our complete guide on the rise of crowdfunded funerals.