Death…There’s an App for That
How technology is taking on mortality
By Joyce Alla
You know you’re going to die…eventually. But you don’t think about death five times a day — unless you’ve downloaded WeCroak, a popular iOS and Android app that sends alerts to remind you death is looming.
According to the founders of WeCroak, Ian Thomas and Hansa Bergwall, their inspiration is from a Bhutanese folk saying: to be happy, one must contemplate death five times daily. This is just one of the new high-tech products surrounding the once tabooed topic of death. Products range from iOS and Android apps designed specifically to remind you you’ll die, to many online tools focused on funeral planning, personal legacies, bucket lists and even bequeathing your digital assets.
In the death reminder category, you’ll find Countdown to Zero by developer Zhenlai Xia, an app that shows your life expectancy using the image of a battery running out of juice. The app also estimates your life in terms of events, for example, how many more weekends do you have? How many meals will you enjoy? Or, how many sunrises? Deadline is listed as a health app and it estimates your longevity by asking a series of questions and combining that data with health info (if you’re using Apple Health.) Developer Gist LLC considers this app a motivational tool asking, “What if you knew how long you had left? Could it motivate you to be healthier to extend your life?”
Everest Funeral Concierge, Everplans and Cake provide tools to help you embrace your death from a practical planning perspective. Each allows you to proactively design (and sometimes even pay for) your end of life wishes in advance. These tools will store your important documents and directives, including health and insurance info, estate plans, funeral specifics, and even legacy wishes. Cake reports that over half of their customers would like a tree planted in their honor. Making all the important decisions while you’re alive can remove stress and worry, allowing you to enjoy the time you have left. If you’ve ever planned a funeral, you know there are a lot of debates and discussions over what the deceased “would have wanted.” These tools deliver peace of mind for you and, in many cases, harmony amongst your surviving loved ones.
Safe Beyond and Afternote are companies focused on the digital afterlife. For many, social media memorials have become more important than a service or event. These companies allow you to save memories and create messages to loved ones delivered after your death. (Check out the video on Safe Beyond if you ever need a good cry.) You can also bequeath access to your digital assets, providing a measure of cybersecurity to avoid compromised or hacked accounts.
The fourth category of death-oriented apps are the bucket list trackers. Using colorful graphics, vision boards and customizable categories, these apps help you build, plan and accomplish items on your bucket list. Soon will deliver recommendations based on your tastes, and help track small and large goals – be it books to read or countries to explore. iWish delivers graphic vision boards filled with ideas ranging from wellness goals to sports, travel and relationships.
With more than 100 people dying every minute (according to The Economist’s Data Team) it’s no wonder death is a fast-growing market. Funeral homes and religious organizations have long been the traditional stewards of death, but don’t seem capable of giving control over the journey to death many desire while still alive. This host of new tech companies is eager to help you embrace, plan and even celebrate your passing.
“Baby boomers have defied orthodoxy our whole lives…why wouldn’t we want to carve our own path to death?” comments Carol Lasky, coordinator of Boston’s Death Café, a free and open monthly meet up that encourages guests to discuss, explore and embrace their future and ultimate demise. “The Death Café is not a therapy or grieving session,” Lasky explains, “it’s an opportunity to put death squarely on the table, and most people leave the discussion uplifted and invigorated.” Lasky created a non-tech version of death-planning assistance in her award-winning book, Youlo (pronounced You-lo as in eulo-gy.) This elegantly designed book provides a suite of tools for funeral and legacy wishes, and even letters to be shared after passing.
According to Lasky, all of these new death-oriented products are filling a market need. “People want to have a sense of empowerment and deal with death on their own terms. Our awareness inspires us to live our best lives in the astoundingly short time we are given,” she says. Whether you use these tools to gain peace of mind, or to embrace your life and take risks before death, it’s certain these technologies will have a profound effect on how you die and, even more so, on how you live.
About the Writer
Joyce Alla (Bucket age – 33) is a freelance writer whose phone is now filled with death apps as she hopes to gain motivation to fulfill the many items on her bucket list. Her writing has appeared in Parents Magazine, Family Fun Magazine, Boston Globe Magazine and other publications. Joyce is currently working on her first novel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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