While most respondents to a survey of young adults felt comfortable discussing death as an abstract concept, they noted also having a more difficult time fathoming the prospect of dying. Consequently, they were far less likely to have specific plans in the case of an unexpected death.
Inspired by preliminary interviews conducted with field experts and a diverse range of potential users, Momentaria is a platform for young adults especially to collect Moments—individual plans, ideation, preferences, and even unlockable messages for postmortem care. The users can sit down and fill out a questionnaire on the platform or they can sync with social media and collect Moments through widgets and extensions in their everyday online lives. Momentaria also asks users to designate Trustees who consent to reviewing and carrying out the user’s final wishes to the best of their ability in the event of death.
Each Moment is not legally binding on its own, but it starts conversations early to raise family members’ awareness of each other’s wishes. When individuals are informed of options and can evaluate them together earlier, they will engage in more emotionally, financially, and environmentally responsible deathcare practices.
The traditional American funeral is costly both financially and environmentally.
A lack of planning leads to ambiguity; ambiguity can lead to family disputes and estrangement.
There is a distrust of the stereotypical funeral home, yet all families must utilize them.
When young adults are in college or are living on their own for the first time, they tend to not have any Advanced Directives, Wills, Trusts, or other such documentation. This is mostly due to the fact that they usually do not own property or have an established family of their own.
Although young adults may not have specific official plans, scattered preferences and ideation may reveal themselves randomly during casual conversations with loved ones. By normalizing the discussion of death, we can perhaps promote the awareness, support, trust, and reassurance young adults and their families could use throughout the rest of their lives.
From my secondary research and guided interviews with adults who have experienced bereavement and making postmortem care arrangements, I derived the following insights:
Younger people find it difficult to recognize death as a non-abstract inevitability.
End-of-life planning details can come up randomly in casual conversation.
When learning funeral options, families should have time to leave, discuss, and return.
Planning or making arrangements ahead of time eliminates guesswork.
An individual’s personal planning process should include family members as well.
Discussing end-of-life plans regularly helps ease family into process.
Participating in planning or carrying out final wishes can help the bereaved mourn together.
Based on my insights, I kept the following principles in mind. They acted as my goals for my final concept throughout the ideation process. Whatever Momentaria grew into, I wanted to make sure it would:
Casually create opportunities to talk about death
Make individual’s final wishes known to inner circle ahead of time
Allow time for users to leave, discuss, and return
Emphasize common experience to facilitate conversation
Use sensitive language for uninitiated
Emphasize memories over objects
Respect privacy and willingness to participate for people who grieve differently
Be a small ritual that can be easily incorporated into traditional rituals
Can happen spontaneously, and has capacity to benefit and be incorporated into daily lives
An individual response recorded by the user.
The list or gallery of moments as seen on a user’s personal Momentaria page.
An individual who has been entrusted full access of the user’s collection of moments postmortem. Anyone in the user’s contacts can be tagged, but a trustee must be a Momentaria account holder.
After syncing contacts, a user can tag a person and notify them of a moment that is relevant to them.
The Collection is a gallery of the user's responses to fundamental Moments, or those that they created on their own. The user can create, edit, and delete their own Moments throughout their life. However, while a Trustee can see the user's Collection, in the case the user has died they are only able to either mark the Moment as Fulfilled or Add Notes for themselves and other Trustees (especially in the case the Moment is unfulfillable).
The Extension/Widget allows the user to add a Moment without interrupting their usual day-to-day browsing.
The Message Center allows the Momentaria Team to inform the user of site updates and remind them to update their information after life-changing events. Users can also message one another to share Moments, or even coordinate fulfillment between trustees.
When individuals and their families are informed of options and can evaluate them together earlier, they will engage in more emotionally, financially, and environmentally responsible deathcare practices.