Making Friends in Old Age
Statistical Notes on the U.S. 65-Plus Population

Elder Organ Donation

A few days ago, an email landed in my inbox with a subject line about old age and organ donation. Huh? Without having given it much thought, I had assumed old organs were probably not useful, probably worn out.

According to the National Institute on Aging, I am wrong:

“'Age doesn’t make you ineligible to sign up, nor do you have to be in perfect health,' says NIA Deputy Director Marie A. Bernard, M.D. 'Your ability to donate is determined by a doctor at the time of death.

“'More people today are living healthier lives and know about the importance of living and eating well and exercising,' Dr. Bernard continues. 'That means we’re in better shape than ever. We’re also able to be donors and recipients at later ages than anyone might have imagined.'”

In many states, you can register to be an organ donor by checking a box when you renew your driving license but you can also register online with your state's organ donor registry. Start here for that.

As you might imagine, a large percentage of the people receiving transplants are 50 and older – nearly 60 percent of recipients in 2012. But only 32 percent of donors were were that age. See more about that here.

According to the National Institute of Aging, 18 people a day in the U.S. die while waiting for a transplant. Here's a little video about age and organ transplant:

There is more information along with a bunch of links to answer many questions here.

My drivers license lists me as an "anatomical donor" but I have now also registered with the online form for my state so that if I die in a hospital they won't need to hunt for my license. You can do that too. It a good thing to do.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Where Are You, Zsa, Zsa?


Thank you very much. I'll do that this afternoon.

Done, and thanks, Ronni!

Good information. I am signed up on my license but who knows if anyone could find it if the need arose. Thanks.

Thanks for the link to the Online site. I have carried an organ donor card in my wallet for years, but didn't know about the site. I will go there right now and sign up.

I have very mixed feelings on this subject. My brother-in-law is alive today because someone donated the heart he so desperately needed. But I'm not signed up to be a donor. I know it's a bit irrational and politically incorrect but I don't want strangers waiting perhaps too eagerly to harvest my organs. Besides, when I asked, I was assured when my dad died at 89 that no one wanted organs that old.

If more seniors would donate organs, there would be a larger source of organs available. Some of those organs might go to seniors because, as we all know, donated organs often go to the youngest patients with the elderly put on the bottom of the list for no other reason other than age.

After being signed up for years to make anatomical donations at our death, my sister, just before her death, found out that the hepatitis she had as a small child made her ineligible.
I immediately got on the phone to check my own status since I recently had C-Diff in the hospital while recovering from surgery. Sure enough, they don't want my body, so I am in the process of choosing a local undertaker and probably pre-paying just to make it easier for my kids.

I've always been listed as a donor on my driver's license, but I went ahead and signed up - just in case I'm still 'fresh' if I croak at home.

How many of those older organs end up being used in research or at medical schools for their students to practice on?

I'm 74. When I moved to Florida recently and went to get a new driver's license I also assumed I was too old to be a donor. The woman at the registry assured me I was not. Clearly she was well trained.

To Commenter Lyn Burnstine. Go ahead and do the pre-arrangement thing. You will be amazed at the peace of mind it will give you. Just remember, If you feel that you are being pressured by the funeral salesman in any way, walk out. There are plenty of honest and sincere funeral homes to go to. I have done this and don't regret it one bit.

There was just a CBC documentary on this topic. Two sides were evaluated. On one hand, some people's families felt pressured to pull the plug on a child in a coma.

One example, the son came out of the coma in time.

Another case, a young woman went online and asked for a new lung. She did her homework, raised awareness, got her lung and so appreciates the gift.

I already signed permission on my driver license, and have no problem donating a part of my aging carcass to someone who needs it.

As long as I'm dead before the doc starts carving me up like an Easter ham.

Recycling is good for the planet.

I signed up and I feel so good. Thanks for the info.

Thank you, Bruce. Yes, I do plan to pay ahead. And fortunately, I've belonged to a memorial society for many years that does all of the comparisons and legwork for you. They also ask for the nearby undertakers to provide a description of 4 package deals they are willing to offer, including simple, no view cremation with simple wooden or cardboard box for the ashes. That's fine for me and my kids. Being frugal has gotten me through all of these years--why stop now?

I was quite surprised the last time I renewed my driver's license when the clerk asked me if I still wanted to be an organ donor. I said, "Do they want organs from someone so old?" and he answered yes, so I checked the donor box.

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