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Older Americans Month: Am I too old to be an organ, eye and tissue donor?

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(BPT) - May is Older Americans Month, a time to celebrate older Americans and their contributions while also raising awareness about aging and age-related issues. Beyond the time, experience and talents older Americans give to enrich their communities, many have also saved lives through organ, eye and tissue donation. More than one-third of all deceased donors are over age 50.

People in their 60s, 70s and beyond have given the gift of life as a donor. In Colorado and Wyoming, the average age of a tissue donor is 64 years old. The oldest tissue donor helped save and heal the lives of others in 2017 at 104 years old. Many people will often automatically rule themselves out as a potential donor because of their age or health, but each person is evaluated by medical professionals at the time of their death to determine if they can be a donor. There is no age limit to donation or to registering to be an organ, eye and tissue donor.

When Jennifer Rindahl of Highlands Ranch, CO, lost her father-in-law Larry in 2011, she was surprised to learn that he was eligible to be a donor.

“Not only was Larry 73 years old, but he also had a medical condition at the time of his passing,” said Rindahl. “We were amazed that he was able to donate skin and bone that helped save and heal the lives of seven people.”

After Larry’s passing, Jennifer learned that you should never count yourself out as a donor no matter your age or what your health status is. Rindahl became an advocate for donation to tell Larry’s story to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Rindahl added, “I share my family’s story to honor Larry’s legacy and to inspire others to say Yes to organ, eye and tissue donation.”

Register to be a donor at any age

Older Americans Month is a good reminder to talk about organ, eye and tissue donation with your loved ones. Having these conversations early and letting family members know about your decision to be a donor is critical to alleviating the burden on your family to make that decision on your behalf during a time of grief and loss.

Right now, more than 1,500 people across Colorado and Wyoming are waiting on a lifesaving transplant. Just one donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation and save and heal up to 75 more lives through eye and tissue donation.

Don’t rule yourself out. Anyone can sign up to become an organ, eye and tissue donor by saying Yes when they get or renew a drivers license or state ID, or anytime at DonateLifeColorado.org or DonateLifeWyoming.org.