Life expectancy skyrockets in the second half of the 20th century as scientists conquer more and more traditionally life-threatening diseases. With longer lives to live, we have more time to contemplate our mortality... and to prepare for death via hospice care, elaborately planned funerals and more.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy during this era was 68.

What Defines a Person

The United States has become increasingly divided over whether or not a fetus is a person who can die.


Organ donation by the newly dead has become popular.


Aging boomers have had to make difficult decisions about their dying parents.


Medical technology has created a large population of relatively healthy older people for the first time in history, leading to financial and medical decisions never faced by previous generations.


The modern hospice movement has developed to ease the poignancy of final days.

Modern Medicine

More and more in the medical profession, a cured patient represents success, while one who has died represents failure.

Disney Dads

"Widowed dads" has always been a favorite Disney plot device.


Folks can get vaccinated against polio, rubella, chicken pox, pneumonia, meningitis and Lyme disease, all of them once potentially life-ending.


In a reversal of the previous century, newspapers avoid the grisly details of death but trumpet news of celebrity sex scandals.

American Flag

American soldiers falling in Vietnam and the Middle East have always been returned to the States for burial in elaborate and moving ceremonies in which the American flag is prominently featured.

How Can I Help You?

Funeral homes offer "full service," from notification of the coroner to selection of the ostensibly "leak-proof" casket and on to final burial of the deceased.

The 27 Club

Young rock musicians have come to fear induction into the 27 Club, which includes Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain.

5 Stages of Grief

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has famously formulated five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Modern Funerals

Funeral homes have always offered elaborate and expensive services, such as embalming, to make the body seem pretty, handsome, at peace or distinguished for viewing in an open casket.

Notable Deaths

Notable deaths have included the assassinations of an American president and a civil rights pioneer.

In the News

1950 - Korean War begins

1953 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed for treason

1965 - U.S.A. escalates military role in Vietnamese civil war

1968 - Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated

1980 - John Lennon assassinated

1987 - U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. sign first in a series of treaties to reduce nuclear proliferation

1989 - Chinese authorities crush pro-democracy rebellion in Tiananmen Square

1995 - Federal building bombed in Oklahoma City

1999 - Columbine High School shootings