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Important Notice: Cremation is not a fad

Cremation Association of North America
2019 Annual Statistics Report
United States cremation rate in 2018: 53.1%, estimated 59.4% in 2023
Canada cremation rate in 2018: 72.1%, estimated 76.9% in 2023

There is a growing concern in the monument industry and cemetery groups that cremation will be the downfall of the death-care industry, even though it has become the most common burial option in North America. The Cremation Association of North America released their 2019 Annual Statistics Report and they found that in 2018, the cremation rates in the United States and Canada were 53.1% and 72.1% respectively. They also found that cremation rates are climbing at an annual growth rate that is greater than earlier published predictions. By 2023, they estimated cremation rates in the United States will hit 59.4%; 76.9% in Canada.

What does this mean for the traditional monument suppliers? Like any industry, consumer demand is changing but cremation is not simply a trendy option or the fad of the day. Cremation is already the new tradition and it is time for the industry to adapt.

The common sentiment among monument dealers and funeral homes is the concern that families are choosing not to bring the cremains of loved ones to the cemetery at all but are keeping them at home or scattering their ashes. Cremains are not regulated like a full body burial and therefore, families have the option of interment at a later time or skipping interment altogether and keeping their loved ones close. There are consequences to keeping people out of the cemetery: history of the community becomes lost, families generally regret spreading ashes (especially somewhere far away or difficult to access) and it generally means less visitors, less interments and less perpetual care resources to help maintain the cemetery. Everyone in the industry wants to see people interred in the cemetery and the key to getting them back may be understanding why they aren’t there now. The answer may be as simple as the lack of options.

We have heard multiple reasons over the years from family, friends and customers why they want to be cremated but the two most popular reasons seem to be a) full body burial is expensive and b) they don’t want to be interred in the ground. If they have already made the decision to be cremated, what are the above ground interment options?

The industry has been stuck on the idea of selling headstones for so long that it’s been difficult to move away from it. For many years, as cremation rates began to climb, it became more common to simply purchase a headstone with holes cored out of the bottom for urns. It was an option at the time but impractical when it came time to do the actual interment. The products on the market now are much more practical, with a much better design and many more options.

Community Columbariums
The most popular above ground interment option is the community columbarium. Units ranging in size from 24 niches to 84 niches, as standard at Nelson Granite, to larger multi-unit configurations, depending on demand. These columbariums come fully assembled and are craned into place in the cemetery. The cemetery administration sets the price, sells the niches and markets the columbarium to customers who are planning ahead, those who have just lost a loved one and those who have been waiting for this option to become available.

Family Columbariums
Another very popular option for those looking for a more personal touch is the family columbarium line. These units range in size from 2 niches to 16 niches as standard and the family would purchase the entire columbarium. The 2-niche columbarium has almost single-handedly become the traditional headstone replacement for those who are cremated. At just 24” square as standard, the 2-niche fits on the foundation at the head of the plot according to most cemetery bylaws and is much easier to manage and handle than a headstone with holes drilled in the bottom to accommodate urns. They can also be personalized with a variety of pediments and statues available. There is also a bench model of the 2-niche, and a hybrid 2-niche-headstone combination to allow for more room to personalize and be creative.

Ossuary Space
An option for those who maybe can’t afford a niche in the community columbarium is the ossuary. Some of the larger columbariums have a chamber in the middle in which cremains can be interred and their name would be added to a memory wall on the columbarium itself; an option on many of our larger units. The cremains are kept in a soft-sided vessel and placed in the communal space through an access point in the back of one of the niches. This interment option can be sold at a much lower price than that of a niche and they will still have their name displayed on the columbarium memory wall.

Memory Wall Options
With the options available, it might still not be what the family is looking for or even something they can afford. Many people wish to have their ashes spread on their property or at a place close to their heart. Those people have no intentions of actually being interred in the cemetery but may still choose to have some sort of record of them and a place for the family to visit, especially if the place where the cremains are scattered is a difficult, or no longer accessible, place to reach. A memory wall, whether on the end walls (or the panels in the case of round or square units) of the columbariums, can help serve that purpose. Their name and dates of birth and passing will forever be memorialized in the cemetery, even if they are not.

With cremation rates growing at the rate they are, above ground interment options are being considered an essential service for a municipality, cemetery board or church to offer their constituents or parishioners. Offering options will not only help bring people back to the cemetery, it will also help preserve that community history and keep a steady source of revenue to be reinvested into the cemetery through maintenance and perpetual care.

There is no turning back the clock on the shift away from traditional burials so lets embrace the industry change and give the community the options they are looking for; not only for them but for the relevance and integrity of the cemetery.



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