Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let technology help prevent a lost generation

This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of American Cemetery & Cremation.
By Ethan Darby, Director of Business Development, Trigard

Do you remember life without cell phones? How about getting your first computer? Do you remember when we had to rewind VHS and cassette tapes? In the last twenty years, technology has changed the way we live. We carry pocket-sized computers (our smartphones) everywhere. Any information we need is just a Google search away. And, we can watch movies and listen to music without rewinding the tapes when we’re finished.

Technology has also advanced memorialization. Direct-to-metal technology and laser engraving can capture incredible detail on all kinds of materials. But the technology isn’t just advancing the products. One recent change, GIS mapping, has really caught the eye of cemeterians. If you’ve never heard of it, then you should Google it. (See what I did there?)

According to the National Geographic, GIS mapping, or Geographic Information System mapping, “is a computer system used for capturing, storing, checking and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface.” It helps cemeterians keep track of their cemeteries’ information in case of fires, floods, or deteriorating paperwork, and helps families locate their loved ones within the cemetery.

Become a genealogical resource
Cemeteries are a snapshot of our community’s historical timeline, a proud and permanent museum for those who came before us. Walking into a cemetery is like walking into your community’s history book and is a valuable resource when conducting genealogical research. While public records are handy, memorials in a cemetery are vital for anyone doing genealogical research, and GIS mapping has made that even easier.

With the help of GIS mapping, fifty years from now when a family’s descendants want to learn about their heritage, they will have easy access to their ancestor’s direct location. And, once they find their loved one, their permanent memorial can help tell their story to their descendants.

But, what happens if someone chooses not to be memorialized in a cemetery or memorial park? What if they just want to be “scattered over the hill” without any kind of permanent memorial? They run the risk of them becoming part of a lost and forgotten generation.

Preventing a lost generation
As memorialization professionals, it is our job to prevent generations from being forgotten. It is our job to educate the families we serve on the importance of memorializing their loved ones. It is just another component in the way we care for them. A permanent memorial not only helps the healing process, but it also provides families a place to visit and to share memories for years to come. When you let a family walk out the door without understanding the benefits of memorialization, you are robbing them of the experience of having a place to honor their loved one, share their legacy with future generations and ensure they are not forgotten.

This is also where technology can come into play. The next generation of consumers may not identify with a yellowing cemetery map on a wall, but I guarantee they’ll be enthusiastic about a smartphone app that uses GIS mapping to help them locate a special space for their loved one in your cemetery. Traditional bronze memorials with limited personalization may not be attractive to younger consumers, but they’ll quickly get involved designing a full-color memorial with family photographs.

I encourage you to be a resource for families. Educate yourself about not only the newest memorialization options but also the new advancements in technology within our industry. Go to conventions, read industry publications and ask your suppliers for more ideas. Be an asset to this industry and help every generation be remembered.

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