Midlifers Discussing Their Own Death At Dinner Parties

Ah, a lovely dinner with your baby boomer friends: Thai fish cakes, minted pea soup and a nicely chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Also on the menu? The discussion of an increasingly popular -- but one-time taboo -- topic: death.

In a recent article, Bloomberg described a Manhattan dinner party at which former Citigroup Inc. executive Steffen Landauer gathered an eclectic mix of guests at his apartment off Fifth Avenue to eat a lovely meal and also to address some tough questions related to dying. Among them: Would I want a feeding tube? Do my parents want to die at home? What happens to my kids if my spouse dies?

Bloomberg reports that hundreds of Americans across the country have organized so-called death dinners over the past month in an effort to lift the veil off some pretty uncomfortable topics. The aim? To ward off conflicts over finances, insurance, inheritance, medical care and what happens at the end of one's life.

One group of students and faculty at the University of Washington have even launched an initiative called “Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death.” It offers talking points, reading material on death, and how to word a death dinner invitation, according to Bloomberg. You can check out the website Death Over Dinner here.

Yet another initiative is the Death Cafe, a blunt discussion on death that's being hosted at coffee shops and community centers in cities across the country. The cafes are modeled on similar gatherings that have been occurring in European cities since 2004. Again, conversations focus on issues such as the type of funeral one would like to have or whether cremation is preferable than burial.

The reason death dinners are catching on is simple: boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, are coping with aging parents even as they come to terms with their own mortality. In a 2005 Pew Research survey, 35 percent of people said they’ve given their wishes regarding medical treatment at the end of their life a great deal of thought and 36 percent said they’ve given it some thought. Even so, only 27 percent said they have put their wishes in writing and 29 percent said they have a living will.

But many baby boomers who have transformed their midlife crises into a time of exciting new encore acts now want to make sure death also happens on their own terms.

A Huff/Post50 blogger, Laverne Bardy, recently wrote about how she and her husband invited their grown children over for dinner to talk about some pretty uncomfortable topics: crypts, living wills, and impending death.

"Neither of us had looked forward to this FINAL TALK. We had prepared ourselves for questions that might be confrontational, challenging or just plain uncomfortable to answer. They never happened," she said. "To our delight the evening went smoothly and lovingly, and while it was far more difficult to talk about than the SEX and DRUGS talks, this talk left our heads a little less cluttered, and our hearts a great deal lighter.

"I am now prepared to die, but I can't ever imagine being ready to die," she added.

What do you think of Death Dinners? Let us know in comments.

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