The Coffin Club Where Elderly People Of New Zealand Make Their Own Coffins


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.

Dozens of groups have sprung up across the country, providing retirees with new friends and, ultimately, cheaper funerals

The original coffin club was founded in Rotorua in 2010 by former palliative care nurse Katie Williams, 77.

“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 but after a host of handy local men came on-board the club took off.

The club soon moved to a larger facility to cater to its swelling numbers.

“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” says Katie.

As well as members building their own coffinsthe group also construct baby coffins for the local hospital, which they donate for free.

Home-made coffins cost just NZ$250.

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.

Williams says the club is particularly appealing to Maori people, who often have large families and find the cost of funerals “crippling.”

“Our motto is; it’s a box until there is someone in it. And while it’s just a box, it brings us together.”

We want to finish off with the Elvis-based coffin that the club member Raewynne Latemore made!

I just wish everybody could accept their death as peacefully as them.

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