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Whilst funerals are often seen as traditional affairs, new research from Mintel has found that seven in ten (68%) over 50s like the idea of a funeral being a celebration of life rather than a more traditional ceremony, rising to 76% of women aged 50 to 64.

Indeed, although funerals are conventionally seen as a taboo subject, today almost two-thirds (64%) of Brits over-50 agree they are happy to talk about the type of funeral arrangements they would prefer, with just 13% of those over 75 saying they find the subject awkward. A slight one in five (21%), however, say their funeral arrangements are a private subject that they wouldn’t want to talk about. 

As such, perhaps it is unsurprising that the funeral market has been resilient through the downturn despite the declining mortality rate, rising by 38.5% between 2009 and 2014, or by just under 7% a year in that time. The funeral market in 2014 is estimated to be worth just over £2 billion, up from £1.5 billion in 2009 with the average cost of a basic funeral in the UK today standing at £3,609. 

Ina Mitskavets, Senior Consumer and Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, said:

‘Traditionally the topic of death has been a taboo in Western societies. However, as the population of the UK continues to age rapidly and there are more and more people who are confronted with the needs of their elderly parents and the prospect of their own mortality, death is becoming a more open topic of conversation.’

‘The fact that so many over-50s prefer their future funeral to be a celebration of life, rather than a more traditional ceremony illustrates that there are great opportunities for funeral providers to expand the range of their post-funeral services to help people celebrate their loved ones one last time.’

A third (32%) of Brits aged over 50 have been solely or mainly responsible for organising a funeral over the past ten years and 17% have given advice or helped out with funeral arrangements. Half (53%) of over-50s have not been involved in organising or giving advice for any funerals in the past 10 years. In order to prepare for the inevitable, six in 10 (60%)  over-50s have made a will, rising to nearly one in eight (78%) Brits aged over 75. 

Showing that most Brits are not averse to planning for their farewell, less than two in five (17%) UK adults aged over 50 say they haven’t taken any steps to prepare for their funeral. Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) have put four or more steps in place. In addition, almost one in six (16%) have a written set of funeral arrangements in place. 

When it comes to paying for their funeral, half (49%) of Brits over 50 say that all or part of the cost of their funeral will be met from the value of their estate and three in 10 (30%) say they have savings set aside specifically to cover their funeral. Additionally, over a quarter (28%) have a whole-of-life insurance plan that will cover their future funeral costs.

‘Pre-paid funeral plans allow the plan holder to arrange and pay for their funeral in advance, in order to safeguard the money until it is needed, whilst also shielding their relatives from the added expenses and any difficult decisions. However, their adoption is still relatively low, perhaps as few people want to think specifically about planning their own funeral, though the proportion does increase amongst the over-75s, for whom this need becomes more ‘real’.’ adds Ina.

Furthermore, whilst many are interested in being sent off with a celebration, one in five (19%) Brits aged over 50 say they don’t really mind what type of funeral or funeral arrangements they have, rising to almost three in ten (28%) men aged 50 to 64. Demonstrating a further break away from tradition, only 39% of Brits aged over 50 think that having a religious aspect to a funeral is important, dropping to just 30% of men aged 50 to 64.

Finally, one in eight (15%) say they would like to personalise their funeral and the same number (15%) are interested in an eco-coffin. However, there does seem to be a limit to demand in innovation with less than one in ten (8%) interested in a green funeral and just 1% interested in broadcasting their funeral online to distant relatives or friends.

‘Despite the increasing amount of innovation in the market for funerals and an expanding variety of funeral products, by and large, today’s over-50s have remarkably traditional tastes, as only a minority express a preference of more environmentally-friendly alternatives, such as an eco-coffin  or a green funeral, whilst only one in eight would like to personalise some of the aspects of their funeral.’ concludes Ina.

Mintel’s Funerals and Funeral Planning report is available to purchase priced £1750.

Press review copies of the report and interviews with Ina Miskavets are available on request from the press office.