You’re never too old to donate organs and tissues!

I wrote this short pamphlet to hand out to older clients who were deciding whether to include arrangements for organ donation in their estate planning documents. 

Don’t think you’re too old to donate organs and tissues!

The need for organ donors is constantly increasing. In the United States alone, one person dies every 90 minutes waiting for an organ donation.

Many people over 60 assume that donating organs and tissues is no longer an option for them. However, age limits for many kinds of organ donations no longer exist, as physical condition is a much more important consideration than age. You might be surprised to learn that many people well into their 80’s can still donate. Even people with illnesses are not necessarily ineligible to be organ donors.

Despite the misgivings of many older people, nearly everyone can donate organs or tissues. If an individual’s heart is not functioning well, for instance, perhaps their liver could add years to another person’s life. And because the best organ or tissue match for an older transplant recipient often comes from an older donor, the demand for older donors is actually increasing.

Many eye banks accept donated corneas from people up to the age of 80—sometimes even older. The condition of the cornea is much more important than its age. Once the cornea is transplanted, contact lenses, glasses or laser surgery can correct many vision defects, enabling the recipient to see well, or to see at all, for the first time in years.

Research is constantly underway, so organ donation criteria will continue to change. As research progresses, age restrictions are likely to diminish. Below are the current guidelines. These may vary widely between programs; please check with your local hospital to learn more about their policies.

Donated organ                       Maximum age of donor

Bone Marrow                                       60

Heart                                                      65

Lungs                                                     65

Liver                                                       80+

Kidneys                                                 80+

Pancreas                                                65

Corneas                                                 80+

Other tissues                                      often 75+