Vt. undertakers adapt to changing funeral business - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. undertakers adapt to changing funeral business

Montpelier, Vermont - July 11, 2011

The funeral business is changing across Vermont as families are starting to consider options that go well beyond the traditional casket.

Jim Johnston has been helping families say goodbye to their loved ones at the Barber and Lanier Funeral Home in Montpelier for close to 50 years. "A lot of satisfaction, in one of the hardest times in their lives," Johnston said.

Johnston lobbies for the Vermont Funeral Directors Association and has served as its president. He says the business is changing dramatically and it's hurting his industry. When he first got started cremations were rare. Now it's the traditional casket burials that are far less common. "When I first came here, if we did two cremations annually, it was quite a few, now we're doing 75-percent, so three out of four are going right to the crematory," he said. Johnston says customers are choosing other ways to save as well. "We're having less calling hours, less religious services, more graveside services, so it's been a complete change."

Monday the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Vermont shared new information on the cost of funerals across the state. It says the average cost for funeral services range between 6 and 7-thousand dollars and that consumers are looking elsewhere as they plan for their passing.

"A lot of people want to do organ donation, or donate their whole body to UVM say for medical services and we are very supportive of that," said the Mary Alice Bisbee, The Alliance's President. She says other options are also gaining traction. "These have to do with the environmental movement, sustainability, a lot of people who want to have their body go back into the compost pile."

Johnston says as families look beyond their neighborhood funeral home, the option may be harder to find for people wanting to go the more traditional route.

"I think you are going to see a tremendous amount of mergers and consolidations, less firms serving more calls," he said.

The Vermont Funeral Consumer Alliance stresses whether you want a more traditional funeral or are considering cremation or another option that communication is key. It recommends putting your wishes in writing and updating them every few years so your families knows what to do when you pass.

Keith McGilvery - WCAX News

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