(lnternational-134) Coffin Clubs for senior citizens in New Zealand. Why not?

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SPECIAL NOTE: I was listening to KUOW FM radio last evening (September 30, 2018), and I was intrigued by the story of New Zealanders making their own coffins…years ago, I saw a 60 Minutes (CBS) report about the French going shopping for coffins and other things related to a funeral…I was surprised how these French were comfortable going shopping for their own coffins. I grew up in Malaysia…and there was a female senior citizen in our village…the story was about a coffin somewhere placed in a separate room in her house…the story was that among the senior citizens in old, mainland China…the adult children would gift their old mother or father with a coffin, the Chinese coffin (huge and heavier than the western models), to celebrate the birthdays of their parents. And the coffin would be placed in a special room in the house. It seems possible in old mainland China when the Chinese did live in big old houses…where there would be extra rooms to house the coffin. And now I am hearing and reading about New Zealanders joining Coffin Clubs to get to know other LONELY SENIOR CITIZENS…WHY NOT? I am reading too many sad stories of lonely abandoned isolated senior citizens in Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealanders…why the loneliness? In some of these Asian countries, stories are everywhere about why the adult children are pursuing their own lives, trying to make money to survive, and in the process leaving their old parents to themselves! I read and heard these stories during my 7 years in mainland China…most of the young people are rural people, uneducated and continue to strive for a better life in urban areas, and in the process leaving or abandoning their parents to take care of themselves…what happens to the Chinese concept and practice of Filial Piety? NKH (TV station in Japan) often report news of senior citizens and their feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, and now desiring to die. Yes, in Asian countries, the problem is real and many senior citizens would commit suicide to end their isolation and loneliness…imagine whole Japanese village without any young people? It is happening now…so for many senior citizens death is the solution? I believe the idea of a Coffin Club would be a good idea…at least they can get together to do something useful in their old age! If I am in that situation, I would gladly join a Coffin Club…to meet other people in the same boat! Steve, USA, October 1, 2018  stephenehling@hotmail.com  weChat 1962816801  blog: https:getting2knowyou-china.com       

The coffin club: elderly New Zealanders building their own caskets
Dozens of groups have sprung up across the country, providing retirees with new friends and, ultimately, cheaper funerals
Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin (Shares 15,622)
Thu 22 Sep 2016 01.01   THE GUARDIAN

Quilting, lawn bowls and bridge it is not. Elderly people in New Zealand are enthusiastically embracing a new pastime: coffin construction.
Scores of retirees across the country have formed clubs so they can get together and build their own coffins. They say the activity is cost-saving and helps to combat loneliness.
The original coffin club was founded in Rotorua in 2010 by former palliative care nurse Katie Williams, 77. Since then the model has spread around the country, and there are now a dozen coffin clubs operating in both the North and South Island.
“Because of my work and my age I had become a perpetual mourner,” says Williams.
“I had seen lots of people dying and their funerals were nothing to do with the vibrancy and life of those people. You would not know what they were really like. That they had lived and laughed and loved. I had a deep-seated feeling that people’s journey’s deserved a more personal farewell.”
Williams initially launched the Kiwi Coffin Club in her garage, with no tools, no volunteers and no idea how to construct a coffin. But after a host of handy local men came on-board – she calls them “the darlings” – the club took off, and soon moved to a larger facility to cater to its swelling numbers.

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Members of the Kiwi Coffin club of Rotorua in New Zeaalnd’s North Island. Photograph: Katie Williams
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“There is a lot of loneliness among the elderly, but at the coffin club people feel useful, and it is very social. We have morning tea and lunch, and music blaring, and cuddles.”
As well as members building their own coffins (home-made coffins cost just NZ$250) the group also construct baby coffins for the local hospital, which they donate for free.
Jeanette Higgins, also 77, lost her daughter and husband in the last two years. Death was on her mind. Last year she attended the club but got “spooked” at the last minute, and didn’t return again until a few months ago.
“I think I was a bit overwhelmed initially, I couldn’t decide how to decorate it,” says Higgins, who eventually settled on a silver and black pattern and blue lid.
“But when you start getting on with it, and sanding and painting, you don’t really think about it [death]. I am of the opinion that it is very healthy to face up to the inevitable. It is an emotional experience and it helps you resolve… something. I feel quite prepared now, it is stored in a cupboard at home, waiting for me.”
Williams says the club is particularly appealing to Maori people, who often have large families and find the cost of funerals “crippling”, and families who come from “stiff-upper lip backgrounds”, who may have previously found it difficult to confront the impending death of a loved one.

It is stored in a cupboard at home, waiting for me.
Jeanette Higgins
“Our motto is; it’s a box until there is someone in it. And while it’s just a box, it brings us together.”

 

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