People around the world are meeting over tea and cakes to talk about death—in surprisingly lighthearted ways. Created by a Swiss sociologist, so-called "death cafes" are designed to give people a positive atmosphere in which to discuss all matters surrounding human mortality, Prospect Magazine reports. The concept has taken off, too, with a death cafe website and more than 1,400 death cafes held in 26 countries over the past three years. "Talking about [death] can only be a good thing," a British death-cafe host tells the Guardian. "It makes for a healthier, happier community." In fun, even gleeful atmospheres, participants discuss issues like natural death vs assisted suicide, how we'd like to be remembered, and what happens to us when we die, San Diego CityBeat reports.
The cafes are also arising as society changes, with fewer Westerners guided by religious beliefs and most of us likely to die alone as we lose our faculties; one in three will have dementia. "We do need to address how to deal with that, both as a society and as individuals and families," says a sociologist. Participants also get to discuss taboo aspects of death, like the fact that many fear grief more than death, or believe that talking about death will make it happen, the Toronto Star reports. Death cafes are also venues for the elderly to discuss what it means to die: "I’m 85 years old and looking death in the face," says a Toronto participant as he eats a butter tart. "It's good to talk about it." For once, notes San Diego CityBeat, death won't be "a conversation stopper." (A recent study finds that if you feel younger than your age, you'll live longer.)