Has anyone done any projections on how the baby boomers may increase the demand for gravestones?
Yikes. Baby boomers haven't even begun the massive drain on our Social Security system, and already you want to know how much granite they'll be using when they're dead.
If you're worried about running out of granite, rest easy. The Elberton Granite Association (http://www.egaonline.com)-the largest trade association of granite quarriers and manufacturers in the United States-claims that there's more than enough stone to go around. All of the EGA's 150-plus members make their living from a single granite deposit in Georgia that is 35 miles long, 6 miles wide, and 2 to 3 miles deep. That's enough granite to fill the Empire State Building nearly 4,000 times. And even if Donald Trump uses the entire slab for his own tombstone, he'd only be hogging a little over a third of the nation's granite supply.
The most common boomer-related question fielded by the International Cemetery and Funeral Association isn't about gravestones, but burial ground: Will there be enough cemetery space for all those dead people? According to the ICFA, industry consensus is there won't be a shortage. Between undeveloped cemetery property and the emergence of double- and triple-depth graves, there will be more than enough plots to go around. (No, you don't get stacked in a triple-depth grave without signing up for one; such plots are usually used for families-or, perhaps, groups like the Three Tenors.) In short, if you want a headstone near your body, there will be a place to put one.
But that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a huge demand for gravestones per se when "those born between 1946 and 1964" start turning into "those dying between 2022 and 2040," (the current life expectancy for Americans is 76.1 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at http://www.cdc.gov/nchswww/fastats/lifexpec.htm). Gravestones may be the bedrock of the funeral industry, but there other forms of memorialization:
Urns. Cremations have become increasingly popular over the years. The Cremation Association of North America reports that from 1987 to 1997, cremations as a percentage of overall deaths in the United States increased from 15.21 percent to 23.59 percent. The association predicts that by 2010, that percentage will have risen to 41.81 percent. (A graphical map, breaking down current numbers by U.S. state and Canadian province, is available at the Internet Cremation Society, http://cremation.org/home.html). Cremation opens up a number of memorialization options: scattering, either at a personally meaningful locale or at a dedicated "scatter garden"; placing the urn in a columbarium niche ; or even burying the remains in a traditional cemetery plot.
Memorial plaques. Those who disdain the traditional upright stone can opt for a flat commemorative plaque in a memorial garden.
Virtual cemeteries and mausoleums. What better way to memorialize a loved one could there be than on a billboard along the Information Superhighway? Just one example: for 35 bucks, World Gardens: the Virtual Cemetery (http://www.worldgardens.com/), will post a Web page that can include the deceased's photograph (scanned from a photo supplied by the bereaved), biographical text, a description of the actual service, and a form by which you can receive e-mail condolences such as : ( .
If you manage to kick the bucket anonymously in Orange County, California, you might be memorialized at the Web site of The Orange County Sheriff-Coroner of Santa Ana (http://www.ocsd.org/coroner.html). There's a "John and Jane Doe Page" complete with fingerprints, sketches, dental records and causes of death for unidentified bodies.
Of course, most of these options apply to boomer pets as well, most of which will be taking dirt naps before their owners. Pet plots are available online, at sites such as The Virtual Pet Cemetery (http://www.lavamind.com/ pet_menu.html). Here, there's always room for some post-mortem doggerel about your cat, but two pet cybersites that are out of space are the Tamagotchi Cemetery at http://www.mirskyland.com/tamagot.htm, and Pullus' Tamagotchi Cemetery (http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Flats/6337/). As yet there aren't any real cemeteries for expired Tamagotchis-but it can't be long before someone opens one, with inscribed Pet Rocks as gravestones.