Obesity Epidemic Changing Funeral Industry

By Erin Jordan, Reporter

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's no secret that Americans are battling obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28% of Iowans are obese. That number has doubled in the past 20 years. The obesity problem not only affects how we live, but it changes what happens to our bodies when we die ... and that has forced the funeral industry to change its business.

Twelve years ago, Cedar Memorial in Cedar Rapids purchased a body lift, capable of raising and lowering bodies and caskets weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

A Cedar Rapids-based company, Mortuary Lift Company, sells the lifts and the lift business is booming. Katie Hill's company has grown 20 percent a year. Just this year, she sold more than 100 lifts in the United States and abroad. "It started out, you know, selling three machines a year on up, and now we're actually producing quite a bit," Hill said.

Cedar Memorial president John Linge says larger loved ones also present a challenge for burial. "The funeral industry has had to respond by providing caskets, mausoleum crypts and burial vaults that will accommodate larger individuals." According to Linge, Cedar Memorial plans to add oversized burial crypts to its mausoleum in the next five years, showing that the obesity trend is not likely to end soon.

According to the Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America, oversized caskets may cost 15 to 25% more, but Linge says they help families visualize their loved ones in comfort.

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