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Austin 'Death Cafe' Breathes New Life Into Age Old Subject

Roy Varney for KUT News

Death Cafe may sound like a new Tim Burton film or goth band. But instead, it’s a growing group of meetings where participants spend hours discussing their hopes and fears surrounding death and dying.

Texas’ first Death Cafe is being held in Austin later this month. Its Austin hosts, Jo Jensen and Brooks Kasson, have an intense interest about the subject of death, and are ready to let Austinites voice their opinions on the subject.

"I'm interested in how we as a culture approach this last taboo subject in the United States. And, mostly, we don't," Kasson says. "We've shuffled the death and dying process off to hospitals and to funeral homes." But Kasson anticipates a growing interest in the subject, due to the advancing age of the baby boomer generation.

The concept of the Death Cafe started in Switzerland in 2004. You can read about it here. Cafes have since been held more than 60 times across the world, from Australia to New York City.

Politically and philosophically, the Death Cafe does not claim to align itself with any ideologies. Instead, the cafes allow people to bring in their own beliefs and discuss them in an open, nonjudgmental forum.

"I think – because we are in the beginning of a transformative period of how we look at death and dying – this is the beginning of a lot of different conversations," Kasson says.

Interested? Listen to KUT’s story in the audio player above. 

Roy is a second year journalism professional track graduate student at the University of Texas.
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