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The lost generation

The Lost Generation: the problem of scattering ashes in the modern era

At Scattering Ashes we get calls on a daily basis from people wanting to know where their loved one’s ashes were scattered. We have never been able to say anything other than: ‘Sorry we don’t know and we don’t know how to help you.” We started thinking about what the scale of the issue might be and then in 2019 we started researching. Then the pandemic arrived. Now with things getting ‘back to normal’ we have been able to complete the research and publish the report. I, Richard Martin, presented it at the ICCM Learning Convention and Exhibition 2022. and there’s a link to the full report is at the bottom of the blog.

The Lost Generation

Since records began, we have known the final resting place of every person. But over the last half a century this has changed, now we know only a fraction of where people’s ashes are laid to rest. The practice of scattering a person’s ashes has increased year on year since the late sixties and now it is the most common choice, but as it is informal no records exist.

Our research shows that three-quarters of all those cremated will have their ashes removed from the crematorium, of the ashes that remain there 74% will be scattered in the gardens of remembrance and 22% will be interred within a columbarium making up about 4% of the total. For ash ceremonies carried out at the crematorium, 46% are attended by friends and family.

Considering the number of scatterings carried out and the timeframe since this cultural phenomenon began, our assessment shows around 6.45 million people will have scattered ashes without recording the final resting place. As this method is now the most common choice this total could rise to 10 million by 2030 – literally the Lost Generation.

Report summary

  • 76% of families will remove ashes from the crematoria.
  • 74% of the ashes left at the crematoria will be scattered, with 22% being interred and 4% in a columbarium.
  • Ashes ceremonies at the crematoria are attended by friends and family 46% of the time.
  • More than 6m people’s ashes have been informally scattered since 1970.
  • Almost all have gone unrecorded as there is no formal system for this.
  • This figure is likely to increase to 10m by 2030.

For a copy of the full report – Lost Generation Report

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