The Best of…Preplanning Your Funeral Helpful to Survivors

Published May 23, 2008, All Pawtucket All The Time

           For this aging baby it was stressful attempting to get my elderly parents to preplan and prepay their funerals  After all, my siblings and I were only trying to give them the final say on the little details of their last wishes.  

            In 2001, my father with my mother with early-stage dementia sat together in a Dallas-based funeral home, to prearrange and prepay their funerals.  My eighty-seven year old father checked out the selection of caskets like he would have shopping for a new car in his earlier years.  He lifted the casket’s lid, thoroughly examining the cloth lining and the quality of the workmanship for each casket on display.  Ultimately, he would not choose the less expensive casket, but a nicer one, a little higher up on the funeral home’s price list. All the minute details of their funeral were also hammered out that day but in the end my father backed out of the deal.  A legal technicality over how his name would be listed on the death certificate resulted in my father leaving the funeral home without signing on the dotted line. 

           It seems that my late father’s experience was not the norm because many aging baby boomers and their elderly parents make it through the stressful process of preplanning and prepaying for their funeral goods and services, memorials, burials and cremations.

           According to a 2007 AARP survey 34 percent have engaged in some preplanning for a funeral or burial, and just under a quarter of individuals over age 54  have prepaid at least a portion or burial expenses for themselves or someone else.

         Ted Wynne, funeral director of Pawtucket-based Manning-Heffern Funeral Home, sees a transient society where children are living away from their parents, fueling the increasing demand for preplanning and paying for funerals. “Elderly parents want to take pressure off their children who in some cases live thousands of miles away from making burial arrangements,” says Wynne, who is a former president of the Rhode Island Funeral Directors Association.        

         Without the extras, a basic, traditional, funeral may end up costing around $6,500. The final price increases when you add on the other non-guaranteed price items like cost of flowers, obituary notices, limousines, clergy honoraria, cemetery plots and burial liners or vaults. 

         You can also comparison shop to find the best prices, recommends Wynne.  He notes that the Federal trade commission requires funeral directors to give you an itemized price list (includes all products and services provided by the funeral home) in writing and over the phone.  Wynne adds, when prepaying a funeral that includes non-guaranteed price items, funeral homes can only give the current prices. When death occurs, the survivor will be responsible for paying the price increases.       

            While the right price (identified through comparative shopping) might influence your choice of funeral home, for many older people it’s by reputation and word of mouth recommendations that influence them in making their choice, Wynne adds.

          Wynne, who has worked 24 years as a funeral director at his family’s 130 year old Pawtucket funeral home, says you don’t have to prepay the total price in “one fell swoop.”  Some come in and put a $1,000 down and just continue making smaller payments, he says.

            According to Wynne, preplanned funeral payments can be placed into either insurance or trust-funded plans.  He recommends creating a separate interest bearing trust account in lump-sum or payments held at a local bank. Both the person’s name and funeral home are listed on the account.   On death, access to the account is through a certified death certificate and an itemized funeral bill.  

           For those close to Medicaid-eligible, putting money into an “irrevocable” preneed funeral plan can be a way of legitimately spending down your assets, too.   

.         Before signing on the dotted line find out how your money will be kept, ask about refund, change or cancellation policies, recommends Wynne.  Legal counsel can go over the paperwork details, he says.

         Preplanning and prepaying for your funeral eliminates the stress to survivors, Wynne says, when death occurs.  “Everything is in writing and it is all paid for,” he says. “Now, all the family member has to do is give the funeral home a ring.” 

        Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, health care and medical issues. This article was published in May 23, 2008 in All Pawtucket All The Time.  He can be reached at


The Best Of…AARP Repackages Itself for a Younger Crowd

Published May 9, 2008, All Pawtucket All The Times

         In 1999, the American Association of Retired Person’s changed its moniker to AARP, reflecting its new efforts to bring aging baby boomers into its rank and file.

         Four years later, AARP made a decision to codify its name change in the content of its official publications. No longer in its official membership publications would it recognize a generation gap between the Pepsi generation and their elderly parents.  In 2003, AARP, America’s most recognized aging advocacy group, launched AARP, The Magazine.  The organization was betting that the merger of two separate publications  (My Generation for people 50-59 and Modern Maturity for those age 60 and over) would “appeal to octogenarians, their fifty-something off-spring and anyone in between.”

         In explaining the merger of publications, Hugh Delehanty, editor in chief of AARP The Magazine, in the inaugural March/April 2003 issue, stated:  “We concluded that what unites the generations is much more powerful than what separates us.”

        Targeting the baby boomer generation for AARP membership was a sound decision because of the nation’s demographic shift, noted C. Brit Beemer, chairman ofAmerica’s Research Group.  “With increased longevity it was not uncommon for aging baby boomers and their children to both become retirees at the same time,” the marketing guru said in a released AARP statement announcing AARP’s one magazine for two generations.  “As a result the interests of baby boomers and their parents will naturally converge around health, financial stability and travel, even if the way they handle those issues is very different.”

        Now, five years later, AARP now recognized as the world’s largest membership organization for those age 50. announces the relaunch of its Web site, The new Web site targets boomers with social networking opportunities, expert content and entertainment tailored to their unique needs. One of the key components of the newly revamped site is the expansion of AARP Bulletin’s print publication into a daily news site, AARP Bulletin Today, the only online news source catering specifically to the age 50 plus demographic. has been reinvented as the on line destination for those who want to stay connected, informed and engaged,” said AARP CEO Bill Novelli in a statement announcing the group’s newly designed web site. “ is designed to meet the needs of a generation that is increasingly online. There are nearly 80 million boomers in America. This influential generation comprises about one third of on line users – users who may feel out of place on networking sites aimed at their children and grandchildren, but who are looking to connect with family and friends online,” Novelli says.

        AARP officials hope that AARP Bulletin Today will become the go-to news source for age 50 and over Americans and offers daily news and exclusive features brought to life with multimedia and interactivity to engage readers in a variety of ways. Some new, engaging, and useful features on include columns such as Scam Alert, Save a Buck, Outrage of the Week, Ask the Experts, What I Really Know, Health Discoveries, Myth Busters, Ask Ms. Medicare, Campaign Watch, and Data bank USA. The new site offers more original content and news reporting from the same team that has delivered trusted, credible, and actionable news and information through the AARP Bulletin. The site will also deliver targeted news feeds for breaking news specifically on issues of interest for those age 50 and over, from hundreds of top news sources.

         Social networking sites have become increasingly popular, but are mainly targeted to the twenty something crowd.   Because of this, AARP is launching a new on line social network that addresses the needs of people age 50 and over, on its official Web Site.

          Kathleen Connell, State Director, for AARP Rhode Island, says, “like any successful Fortune 500 Company, AARP must continue to adapt to current society.”  The relaunching of AARP’s is one strategy to do this, she says.

           “We are pleased that AARP launched its updated website ( to better serve the boomer population which is currently the largest cohort of AARP using the internet.”  However, she added that the use of internet services is now increasing for older seniors at a rapid pace.

            Herb Weiss is a Pawtucket-based writer who covers aging, medical and health care issues.  This article was published in the May 9, 2008 issue of All Pawtucket All The Time. He can be reached at