They’re family-focused. They’ve been described as having “redefined leadership.” And they’re the generation that drove a booming economy. They’re members of the Silent Generation, born 1925-1945, and their values and perceptions about funeral service can have a significant impact on your funeral home’s advance funeral planning program.
Homesteaders’ focus group research indicates that members of the Silent Generation may be the most receptive to the benefits of advance funeral planning. Their responses demonstrate their keen understanding of the importance of prearranging and their belief that acting on those benefits is a smart thing to do.
In addition, a 2015 survey of Homesteaders policy owners showed that people who prearrange are more likely to be in the Silent Generation than in all of the other generations combined. Sixty-four percent of respondents were in the Silent Generation, compared to 25% in the next-highest generation (Leading Edge Boomers, born 1946-1955).
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SILENT GENERATION
In order to better serve people in the Silent Generation, we first must understand their demographics and the values that shape their decisions. This information can help funeral professionals make recommendations and develop service offerings that are meaningful and provide an exceptional experience.
Members of the Silent Generation are more likely than other generations (such as Millennials) to be veterans. According to another study by the Pew Research Center, 35% of men in the Silent Generation (who “came of age during the Korean War and its aftermath”) are veterans.
The importance of family can be an important factor in decision-making for members of the Silent Generation. A study by the Pew Research Center reveals that most Americans (83%) ages 65 and older say they have grandchildren. These Americans also say that having more time to spend with family is by far the best part about growing old.
Forbes contributor Neil Howe noted in his article “The Silent Generation, ‘The Lucky Few’” that the Silent Generation benefitted from a new “booming economy” when they came of age. “[The Silent Generation is] without doubt the healthiest and most educated generation of elders that ever lived – and, of course, the wealthiest,” he wrote. “Coming of age fifty years ago, they quickly amassed more wealth than the seniors of that era.”
PERCEPTIONS ABOUT FUNERAL PLANNING
In the article “The Silent Target,” Senior VP-Marketing and Communications Dean Lambert and Director-Marketing Information Pam Kleese reported on the findings of a Homesteaders-conducted focus group study aimed at better understanding perceptions about funeral service. These results revealed important details about how funeral professionals can adjust their marketing messages and service offerings to better meet the needs of this generation.
Their study reinforced the idea that members of the Silent Generation are more receptive to the benefits of pre-need funeral planning. For example, the focus group responses showed that Silents describe a person who prearranges a funeral as a “good person” and “smart.” The focus group study also revealed that Silent Generation women believe prearranging is a way to take care of their families and also offers the opportunity to have control over the funeral service selections.
Silents also recognize that advance funeral planning comes with many practical benefits. Lambert and Kleese reported that the focus group participants’ motivators for prearranging included financial benefits, sparing family members from making difficult decisions during a time of grief, making it easier for survivors to locate important documents and preventing disagreements at the time of death.
It’s also worth noting that members of the Silent Generation expressed positive perceptions after they prearranged their funerals. In the focus group study, Silents who had prearranged drew rainbows, smiling faces and birds – symbols representing happy thoughts.
WHAT FUNERAL PROFESSIONALS CAN OFFER
Given the demographics and perceptions described here, funeral professionals have a lot to offer members of the Silent Generation. The benefits of advance funeral planning match the values of the people in this age group, and by serving as a resource for this option, funeral professionals can provide a valuable service.
For example, advance funeral planning offers the opportunity to make thoughtful, informed choices about memorialization. By planning ahead, people have the ability to consider their preferences in a stress-free environment and ensure that those choices reflect how they want to be remembered.
In addition, making funeral arrangements in advance allows people to help their families avoid stress and conflict during a difficult time. Homesteaders’ policy owner survey shows just how much this matters to people who prearrange. When asked to rate how important “eliminating emotional burden from kids” was to their decision to prearrange, 91% of respondents said this reason was “extremely important.” Respondents also reported that “eliminating financial burdens” and “fulfilling responsibility” were important factors.
What can the attitudes and preferences of the Silent Generation tell us about those we may see in future generations? In order to understand this, economists and research centers are paying attention to key similarities and differences between the Silent Generation and Millennials (born in the early 1980s to the 2000s).
One notable similarity between these generations is that, like their grandparents, Millennials have experienced significant financial turmoil during their formative years. In an article for Fortune, Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. Chief Economist at Standard & Poor’s, noted that these conditions have “infused in them financial conservatism and a propensity to save.” She also explained that Millennials’ experiences make them more likely to keep a larger amount of cash on hand.
There are key differences in the demographics of these generations that match the trends we are already experiencing in the U.S. population. The Millennial Generation is much more racially and ethnically diverse than the Silent Generation: According to Pew Research Center, in 2014 fewer 57% of Millennials were non-Hispanic whites, compared to 78% of Silents. There are also notable differences in marital status: 68% of Millennials have never been married, as compared to just 32% of Silents when they were the same age Millennials are now.
By examining these comparisons, business owners can be better prepared to make decisions that will secure the long-term success of their firms. For funeral service professionals, this means developing service offerings that match the changing needs of their community and making plans for the resources needed to make these services available.