Obituaries: There’s An App for That

By Lee Rennick

Recently, Pew Research Center, an American think tank located in Washington, D.C., completed a study on the use of technology by seniors. What they found is that the generational tech gab is diminishing.

John Haswell, an 86-year-old retired physician in Nashville, is the perfect example of a tech-savvy octogenarian. In fact, he just created an app to help other seniors deal with death announcements.

Why An Obit App?

“I started Obituaries on Demand because newspaper obituaries are too expensive, and most are cookie-cutter impersonal,” said Haswell. “Many cost as much as $800, and lots of old folks don’t have much left after food and prescription drugs.”

With Haswell’s app, users can create a personal and meaningful obituary that can then sent through social media to friends and family for just $1.99.

“As our friends and relatives become elderly, we can start writing meaningful obituaries for our loved ones,” Haswell explained. “Simply fill in the templates, edit, store the obituary and then send it by social media. [You can write] as many words as you like.”

With the increased use of both technology and social media by seniors, this app has been created at the perfect time. Pew’s study notes that 80 percent of seniors have cell phones, 42 percent have smartphones and more than a third of seniors use social media. Of those who use the internet, about 75 percent of them go online every day.

How Was It Developed?

The app was developed by DevDigital, a local software development company that Haswell found with a simple Google search. After a few sessions with Haswell, DevDigital devised a scope of work for his approval and then produced the app in two to three months.  

“After a few sessions with John, I could tell [the app] was definitely unique,” said Grant Owens, a project manager at DevDigital. “The obits can be shared from the app to Facebook, Twitter, email, etc. The obit lives on its own unique URL, so you can do just about anything with it. [You could put] it on the handout at a funeral with a QR Code that goes directly to the obit.” 

Looking Ahead

With the senior market growing, DevDigital is open to helping more create “odd, but fresh” applications. Owens suggests starting slowly.

“We normally like to start small [to] build the foundation first, then add to it in later phases,” Owens said. “A lot of potential clients have the desire to build massive platforms right at the start, but forget that [even major platforms like] Facebook and YouTube started small, and rolled out additional features over time. That’s why we advise clients to fine tune their idea into a smaller functioning platform, get feedback and ideas from users and then use that [feedback] to guide further development.”

For now, not only does Obituaries on Demand allow families to tell the full story of their passing loved one, but it can also be saved and used later.

“Consider going to [your loved one’s] assisted living facility or nursing home and asking [them] if you can help write their meaningful obituary,” Haswell suggests.

“The application will provide prompts to help you along the way. Write a loving tribute of their life rather than having a mortuary write the traditional cookie-cutter version found in most newspapers. Or write your own obituary. No one knows you better than you do.”

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