Boomers push for enjoyable funerals

It’s really not a surprise — even when baby boomers are going down for the final count, they want to do it their way.

Yes, many boomers, who’ve never lost their penchant for nonconformity, aren’t settling for the traditional funeral.

An open casket — it could be a tie-dyed coffin — may see the departed in his/her favorite biker, surfer or golfing gear.

“One of the biggest changes we’re seeing is religious affiliations are way down from past generations,” said Laura Sussman, a co-owner of Kraft-Sussman Funeral Services in Las Vegas. “Often we’re not hearing at services the somber music played in church but playlists that include someone like Bruce Springsteen.”

Sussman said many boomers make the formal step on the stairway to heaven a celebration with videos capturing the fullness of the deceased’s life.

Not uncommon are services held in parks.

“We had one biker’s service in a park with hundreds of bikes out there,” she said.

When a casino employee dies, it’s not unusual, Sussman said, to have services at the casino.

“It’ll be in a meeting room and it’s easy for colleagues to pay respects without leaving their shifts,” she said.

Sussman added that many boomers now come to the funeral home and bathe and dress their loved ones for a service.

According to Sussman, Las Vegas has a huge cremation rate. While the rest of the country’s rate runs about 20 percent to 30 percent, she said the percentage is as high as 80 percent here.

That difference, she said, could be explained by the fact that so many residents arrived in Las Vegas late in life. They don’t expect many people from where they spent their early lives will visit a cemetery here.

Cost, of course, is another factor. With the average full service funeral in the U.S. about $10,000, a cremation costs a small fraction of that.

Sussman noted cremations now have customized urns, including one shaped like a Harley Davidson gas tank.

What is also growing in popularity among boomers, she said, is a green, or environmentally friendly funeral. Basically that means no embalming, no nonbiodegradable or metal casket and no concrete vault.

Leave it to boomers to think outside the box even when it comes to burial grounds.

Paul Harasim’s column runs Sunday, Tuesday and Friday in the Nevada section and Monday in the Health section. Contact him at or 702-387-5273. Follow @paulharasim on Twitter.

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