The future of funerals

Rocket launching into space

It may sound like science fiction, but the innovations listed below are now available and are changing the way we say goodbye to our loved ones. Some might still be in the early phases, others are more widely available, but all of these funeral ideas are looking to the future.

QR codes on tombstones

Made up of black and white squares, QR codes are patterns that are usually found on adverts, posters, and packaging. The camera on a smartphone can ‘read’ these codes, which usually will direct you to a specific website.

Now people are choosing to add QR codes to their loved one’s tombstones and memorials, as a way of providing more information about that person. Visitors to the grave can use the code to view memorial websites or online obituaries, as an interactive mourning experience.

Although QR codes might be overtaken by a similar but more advanced technology in the near future, the idea of a digital, interactive graveyard could become reality. Imagine finding the tombstone of a long-lost ancestor, scanning a code, and being taken to a website detailing who they were and what they did. In this way, tombstones could become not just a physical memorial, but a gateway to a whole wealth of information on that person, an in-depth tribute to their memory.

DNA preservation

We’re only just starting to unlock the information encoded in our genetic material. Housed within every cell in our body, DNA contains all the data about our physical selves. Now you can ensure that information isn’t lost for future generations.

Special DNA storage companies such as DNA Memorial are able to extract and seal DNA within a special vial so that it can be preserved indefinitely – even without being refrigerated. This is done by taking a cheek swab or sample of hair shortly after someone passes away.

Apart from the bereaved having a memorial that contains the very essence of the person, DNA preservation could save lives. As genetic diagnosis improves, future generations can send the sample for testing to discover if they have any hereditary health problems, or are more likely to get certain types of cancer and illness.

Perhaps in the distant future we’ll have a complete genetic record of ancestors, going back for generations. Doctors of the future will understand our individual medical needs better than ever before, thanks to the information provided by genetic banking.

Online obituaries and memorials

Over the last couple of decades, the internet has become an indispensable part of modern life. It’s difficult to name an industry, service or community that doesn’t communicate online in some way.

It’s understandable, then, that people are choosing to mourn and remember online, too. Innovations like online obituaries let people connect and grieve together no matter the distance, as well as creating a dedicated space to remember a special person.

With the practice becoming more and more popular, online obituaries and memorial sites will soon become an integral part of funeral arrangements.

Space burials

This is one funeral option that probably won’t be widely affordable for a few more generations – but it’s definitely intriguing for those of us that have always dreamt about boldly going where no one has gone before.

For a price, you can have cremation ashes launched into space as the ultimate futuristic funeral. Companies in the USA are now offering this service, but it isn’t yet an affordable option. The cost all depends on how far you want to journey. Being launched into earth orbit costs around $5,000, while heading into lunar orbit and deep space comes in at over $12,000.

Companies that offer space burials often allow the family to view the launch of the rocket, and can provide video footage of the event as a memorial. Although all the fuel required to launch a rocket makes it not the most environmentally friendly choice, it certainly is a farewell no one will forget.

Eco-friendly funerals

Of course, the future won’t just be about the latest gadgets and computers. With every year that passes, saving the environment becomes a more pressing issue that scientists are working hard to resolve. One small part of that ongoing battle is the rise of the eco-funeral, or green funeral. These funerals let nature-lovers depart this world in a way that causes the least possible harm to it.

Natural burials, sometimes called green burials, take place in designated woodland or meadows. They use a biodegradable coffin, made from materials such as bamboo or willow, so that it degrades as quickly as possible and provides nutrients to plants and wildlife. This means that the person who has passed away becomes part of nature again. The burial site is usually unmarked, or sometimes marked with a special tree, but rarely a tombstone or memorial. This allows the burial site to remain as natural-looking as possible.

Aquamation

Aquamation, sometimes called resomation, is an alternative to cremation that is starting to become more popular. Aquamation uses a process called ‘alkaline hydrolysis’ to speed up the natural process of decomposing in water.

People are choosing aquamation because it produces only 5 to 10 per cent of the pollution that cremation causes. Although currently only a few companies offer aquamation in the UK, the method is getting more attention as people become more environmentally conscious.

Cremations are currently the most popular funeral choice in the UK, so it may be difficult to imagine aquamation replacing it any time soon. But this type of eco-friendly innovation has the potential to open up a whole new range of choices when we come to plan a funeral.

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