THE BLOG

You Only Die Once - Why Dying Matters

18/05/2015 11:49 BST | Updated 14/05/2016 10:59 BST

Who wants to live forever? Well, 13% of us do according to new ComRes research for the Dying Matters Coalition.

The survey of British attitudes, published to coincide with Dying Matters Awareness Week (18-24 May) finds that the most common age at which people want to die is 81-90.

As people get older quality of life appears to be increasingly important to them than how long they live for: with 89% of over 65s talking this view, compared with 69% of 18-24 year olds.

Yet, despite only a minority of people saying they want immortality, most of us seem to be in denial about the importance of discussing dying or planning ahead for the end of our life.

Although the research finds that a third of British adults (32%) think about dying and death at least once a week, almost three quarters of us believe that people in Britain are uncomfortable discussing dying, death and bereavement.

Just 35% of us say we have written a will and fewer of us still say we have registered as an organ donor or have a donor card, taken out life insurance, discussed our funeral wishes or written down our wishes or preferences about our future care, should we be unable to make decisions for ourselves.

Even amongst parents who have children under 18 living with them, only 28% have written a will and just 40% had taken out life insurance - risking wishes about who would look after the children not being met, as well as financial uncertainty.

So, what accounts for this failure to plan ahead?

It doesn't appear to be disinterest, as the majority of people do have concerns about their end of life wishes. Indeed, many people, when pressed, have been shown to have strong views. Moreover, just 15% of us - perhaps many of those who want to live forever - believe a good death isn't possible.

Instead, it seems to reflect a reluctance to face up to our own mortality and to talk about dying to the people we care about - combined with the endurance of a British stiff upper lip.

Although the majority of us think it is more acceptable to talk about dying than it was 10 years ago, many of us are still leaving it too late to have the conversations we need to have.

A more open approach to dying in society can also help support loved ones who are approaching the end of their lives as well as for people who have been bereaved. This means demystifying the dying process, the rationale behind our recent guide which prepares people on what to expect when someone they know is dying. It also means being there for people who have been bereaved, and not being so worried about saying or doing the wrong thing that you do nothing at all.

Talking about dying and planning ahead may not be easy but it can help us to make the most of life and spare our loved ones from making difficult decisions on our behalf or dealing with the fallout if we haven't got our affairs in order.

Whether it's through writing a will, making financial plans, planning for our future care and support including through making a Lasting Power of Attorney, or deciding whether we want to join the organ donor, all of us can increase the likelihood of getting our wishes met and reduce the chances of life after our death becoming even more difficult for the people we care about.