When it comes to activities for senior citizens, certain images are bound to come to mind. Bridge clubs. Bocce ball leagues. Art appreciation or book of the month clubs. Whatever the occasion, these activities usually take a pretty subdued approach, leaning more towards arts and discussion than hard work and questions of death.
Not so for members of New Zealand’s newest, most idiosyncratic social club for elderly people, the gleefully named Coffin Club. Today, we’ll be taking a closer look at one of the most interesting things to happen in the senior citizen community in recent years. Though you don’t need much in the way of explanation (the description is right there in the name), the Coffin Club is well worth a closer look.
Introducing: The Coffin Club
The Coffin Club was started in New Zealand in 2010 by founder, Katie Williams, in her garage with no help. The idea was simple: to form a social club for senior citizens that gave something back.
But it was not without its challenges, even with such a novel concept. Williams was not an expert coffin maker. More accurately, she had no idea whatsoever how to build a coffin. So, with no tools, volunteers or training, she enlisted the help of a group of local handymen to help with the process. The move was such a resounding success that, within a very short space of time, the club had to move to a bigger facility to accommodate their swelling numbers.
Reclaiming The Process Of Preparing For Your Death
But what is the Coffin Club? And how does it work? Put simply, elderly New Zealand residents come together on a regular schedule to engage in a fascinating pastime: coffin construction. Whose coffin? Their own, as a matter of fact. And if this sounds morbid to you, you’re actually totally wrong.
The club is a social movement, giving elderly members an opportunity to form relationships and stave off loneliness. Each meeting features a morning tea and music for the entire session, encouraging members to meet and interact with their fellow coffin builders. New friendships are formed, members are encouraged to make their way through their work, andthe club gives people without families a fraternity to belong to.
Members build their own coffins, which are much more cost effective than something bought in a store. Home-made coffins only cost NZ$250, which is a far throw away from some other options. In addition to this, the group also constructs baby coffins for donation to the local hospital. These free coffins go a long way toward helping grieving parents through this difficult time.
Since its inception, the model has spread throughout the country, with a dozen coffin clubs now in effect in both the North and South Island. With members becoming more empowered to squash their own loneliness, the coffin club helps people feel useful, while being incredibly practical, financially. Members have said that the process of sanding, painting, and finishing their coffins puts thoughts of death out of their minds. It’s a practical way of facing the inevitable, helps them to resolve their unfinished business with regards to death and to feel more prepared. A common motto among members 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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