Think You're Too Old to Be an Organ Donor? You Most Likely Aren't!

April is National Donate Life Month.

Man holding little toy heart that says ORGAN DONORS SAVE LIVES

As George was renewing his driver's license, the clerk asked if he wanted to be an organ donor. George laughed. "Son, I'm 75 years old. I have diabetes and high blood pressure. My organs are all too old to help someone else!"

Was George correct?

In fact, experts tell us, seniors are very good candidates for organ donation.

More than 35,000 organ transplants take place each year in the United States. These surgeries save or improve the lives of patients who receive a new kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, intestine or cornea. Surgeons have successfully transplanted hands and even faces.

The success rate for organ transplant surgery has steadily improved — but the supply of available organs and tissues has not kept up. Organdonor.gov, the information portal for the U.S. Division of Transplantation, reports that more than 114,000 people currently are on the national transplant list … and every day, 20 of these people will die before a suitable heart, kidney, liver or other organ is available.

Experts say that 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, yet only half of us are signed up as donors. Why do some people hesitate? Maybe they don't like to think about the end of their own life, or the subject of transplant makes them feel squeamish. Perhaps they believe some of the common myths about organ donation: that they will not receive the same type of care in the hospital at the end of life if they're a donor, or that their family would have to pay the costs of organ recovery. They might have a mistaken belief that organ donation is not allowed in their particular religion, or that their family could not hold an open-casket funeral if they were a donor.

Perhaps the biggest myth is that the organs of older adults aren't suitable for transplant. Nothing could be farther from the truth! "Research shows that organs from older donors can be used effectively," reports the Division of Transplantation. "More than 100 million individuals in the United States are age 50 and over. If the majority of people in this age group signed up, imagine how many more lives could be saved."

People in their 60s, 70s and even beyond have been organ and tissue donors. In 2016, a 107-year-old woman from Scotland donated her corneas, saving the sight of a younger woman. The liver of a 92-year-old man saved the life of a 69-year-old woman.

I want to give this gift of life! What should I do?

Organdonor.gov offers information that can help you through the process.

The first step is to make the decision. Read these Organ Donation FAQs to help you as you consider organ donation. 

The next step is to formally consent to being a donor. In some states, this is as simple as designating your decision on your driver's license. But requirements differ from state to state, so it's important to register in your own state. Learn more here.

Grandmother talking to grandson about her choice to be an organ donor

The third, very important, step is to share your decision with your family and friends. State your wishes regarding organ donation in your living will or other advance directive — but also, talk about it. If your loved ones are aware of your wishes ahead of time, they will be more likely to honor your decision when the time comes. Sharing your willingness to make this gift might even inspire other family members to sign up. Your good example could result in more lives saved.

"Knowing that lives have been saved by a loved one's donation has helped many donor families deal with their grief," reports the Division of Transplantation. "You can make a difference today. Registering to be an organ donor is one of the finest and most unselfish humanitarian actions you can take."


Right at Home, Inc. is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned providers of in home care services.