As Connecticut residents and those around the United States shed this mortal coil, an increasing number of them are choosingcremation rather than traditional burial.
Over the past decade, cremation has surpassed traditional burial as the method of choice for disposing of the human body after death.
The burial rate in Connecticut in 2010 was 53.8 percent, according to the Wisconsin-based National Funeral Directors Association. Burials represented 53.3 percent of all disposal of remains in the United States in 2010.
Next year, the burial rate in Connecticut is expected to drop to 37 percent, according to the NFDA. By 2040, cremation is expected to account for 82 percent.
Officials with the trade association and local funeral directors differ on the reason for the surge in the cremation rate.
Mike Nicodemus, licensed funeral director and NFDA vice president of cremation services, said two of the main reasons for the continued rise in cremation rates are cost and the perceived environmental impact of traditional burials.
“Baby oomers have been a significant factor in this shift and their preferences will inform decisions made by the funeral profession for years to come,” Nicodemus said.
Ed Sheehy, president of the Riverview Funeral Home in Shelton and the Edward F. Adzima Funeral Home in Derby, said cremating a loved one rather than burying them offers flexibility as well as a cost saving. Sheehy also is president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association.
“Our society is so mobile these days and people who may be coming to pay their last respects live all over the country,” he said. “It allows for some options in terms of scheduling a memorial service or some other kind of remembrance.”
Sheehy said cremation also offers easier portability of the remains if the deceased requested to be buried in a distant location.
The primary cost savings associated with cremation comes through a reduction of cemetery costs.
“You can save between $5,000 and $10,000 in cemetery costs by not going with a traditional burial,” he said.
And that translates into a significant loss of revenue for cemetery operators over time.
One of the nation’s largest companies in that business, Texas-based Service Corporation International, told shareholders in 2015 that for every one percent of customers that chose cremation over traditional burial, the company takes a $10 million hit in revenue.
Some cemetery operators have responded by adding new fees. Sheehy said that in some cases, Connecticut cemeteries have added “second interment” fee for adding cremated remains to a plot where family members already are buried.
Dale Fiore, general manager of Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven and a past president of the Connecticut Cemetery Association, was not immediately available for comment on what the increase in cremations has meant to the trade group’s members.
Cremation offers a flexibility that extends beyond scheduling paying last respects to the deceased and the portability of ashes in an urn.
Urns now come in bio-degradable form that Sheehy said allows for burial at sea without a loved one’s ashes being blown away in a strong wind.
And at least three companies offer biodegradable urns that contain seeds that will allow ashes to become part of a memorial tree, although Sheehy said that accounts for only about one percent of the business at his two funeral homes.
A slightly more elaborate option is purchasing jewelry that has compartments to hold a portion of a loved one’s ashes, he said. That accounts for between 5 percent and 10 percent of the business at Sheehy’s funeral homes.
“Most people still just scatter their loved one’s ashes,” he said.