A social networking website for Americans aged 50-plus went live on Monday -- complete with an online obituary database that sends out alerts when someone you may know dies and that plans to set up a do-it-yourself funeral service.
The founder of Internet job site Monster.com, Jeff Taylor, launched Eons.com, a similar site to the popular online teen hang-outs MySpace or Facebook for the 50-plus crowd.
Instead of career and school sections, Eons.com has interactive games to build brain strength, news on entertainment and hobbies for older people, a personalised longevity calculator and tips to live longer.
It also has a nationwide database of obituaries dating back to the 1930s to which people can add photos and comments.
"The death business is growing," Taylor told Reuters, offering figures showing the number of deaths in the United States rose to 2.4 million in 2005 from 2.2 million in 2000, and was projected to rise to 4.1 million by 2040.
In addition to adding photos and videos to obituaries, members of Eons.com can sign up to receive an alert when someone from a particular area dies or in response to pre-defined keywords such as a company or school name.
This is similar to email services offered by various other websites that alert people when a friend or colleague signs onto a certain site.
"Many people no longer live where they grew up so the idea of a rich story about someone's life in a local newspaper is often lost," said Taylor, who sees online obituaries replacing the traditional death announcements in newspapers.
He said baby boomers, the 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, also wanted to have a greater input into their own funerals. This prompted Eons.com to look into a service where people could plan for their favourite songs to be played at their funeral and where friends and family can go afterward for food and drink.
But Taylor, who quit Monster.com last year, said Eons.com's main focus was not death but celebrating turning the Big 5-0 and living the grandest life possible.
Taylor, who is only 45, said he saw the need for Eons.com, for about 44 million of the 86 million Americans aged over 50 are online, but only a few use social networking sites.
This is also a wealthy group, controlling about 67 percent of the nation's wealth -- and with plenty of time ahead.
"We now live about 20 years longer than our grandparents," said Taylor. "These are people who want to spend money to save time rather then spend their time trying to save money."
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