Think again if you believe you’re too old to be a donor

101-year-old Katherine Steck holding a flower arrangement. Katherine donated tissues after her passing.

One of the greatest myths related to organ and tissue donation is that there’s a strict age limit and that older people couldn’t possibly save the lives of others.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, more than 25% of organ donors in Michigan last year were 60 or older. Twenty of the state’s 463 donors in 2022 were 70 or older.

Each was able to save at least one life.

“Please don’t rule yourself out,” said Bruce Nicely, VP of Donation Optimization at Gift of Life Michigan. “We help donors of all ages save lives, including a handful every year who are 75 or older. Please, if you want to give the gift of life, just join the Michigan Organ Donor Registry.”

Thousands of older people save lives across the country each year with gifts of kidneys, livers and other organs. Some were even in their 80s or 90s.

Your medical condition at the time of your death will determine whether your organs are healthy enough to help another person. And while someone with heart disease, for example, can’t donate their heart, they might qualify to donate a kidney. Age isn’t a factor in and of itself. Organ health is.

And tissue donors can be even older. Case in point: Gift of Life helped 101-year-old Katherine Steck of Jackson become a tissue donor in 2022. Her family was thrilled to know her decision to help others was honored. She had the heart on her driver’s license.

“We’ve had tissue donors well into their 90s,” Bruce said. “With tissue donation, those grafts can be strengthened and used regardless of the age of the donor.”

Bottom line: If you want to help others, simply document your decision by adding your name to Michigan’s Donor Registry. Then let medical experts decide if you can help when it’s time.

Go to golm.org/register to add your name to the Donor Registry. Get the facts on common misconceptions in the FAQs.

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