Am I Too Old to Become an Organ Donor? The Truth About Age and Organ Donation

Published May 12, 2022 in Blog

Cecil F. Lockhart dedicated most of his life to serving others. He first served his country during World War II and then contributed to his community as a coal miner for more than 50 years. His time in the military inspired a desire for service that continued until the very end when his donated liver saved the life of a 62-year-old woman. And at 95 years old, Lockhart became the oldest recorded organ donor in United States history.

Lockhart’s family says he was inspired to become an organ donor because his son was able to heal the lives of 75 people through organ donation. His son-in-law says Lockhart would be “ecstatic” that his life-changing gift is helping someone already. “Cecil was a very caring and giving man,” Bill Davis recalled. 

Lockhart’s daughter also spoke about his generosity and how his gift of life is helping them heal.

“He was a generous person when he was alive, and we are filled with pride and hope knowing that, even after a long, happy life, he is able to continue that legacy of generosity,” Sharon White said. “When my brother was a donor, it helped my dad to heal. And today, knowing his life is continuing through others really helps us through our grief, too.”


An elderly hand holds a young hand


Am I too old to be an organ donor?

A common question that often comes up for people thinking of becoming an organ donor is, “Am I too old to be an organ donor?” Lockhart is proof that no matter how old you are, you can still potentially give the gift of life through organ donation. In fact, there is no age limit for registering to become an organ donor. 

Need more proof? In 2016, a 107-year-old woman donated her corneas after death and became Scotland’s oldest organ donor. And in 2019, an 84-year-old man gave a kidney to his 72-year-old neighbor.

Doctors say the issue is health, not age. Seniors can be organ donors as long as they are healthy enough to donate and don’t have cardiovascular disease, cancer or other major conditions. A series of tests by medical professionals determine a person’s eligibility to be an organ donor. Additionally, even with those conditions, it can still be possible to pass on the gift of life through tissue and cornea donation. 


You’re never too old to make a difference

According to data from the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 30 percent of all deceased organ donors in the United States since 1988 have been aged 50 or older. And it’s a trend that’s rising. In 2021, one out of every three people who donated organs was over the age of 50. That’s up more than 8 percent from just 20 years ago. And in the last 20 years, 17 people over the age of 90 have died and become organ donors in the United States. The bottom line? You’re never too old to make a difference.

Lockhart’s donation could go on to help thousands of people. UNOS Chief Medical Officer David Klassen hopes others follow Lockhart’s example. “Too often, people mistakenly believe there is an age limit associated with being an organ donor,” said Klassen. “The truth is, no one is ever too old or too young to give the gift of life. Every potential donor is evaluated on a case-by-case basis at the time of their death to determine which organs and tissue are suitable for donation. Cecil’s generous and historic gift is a perfect example of that.” 


Give the gift of life at any age

Organ donation is not something that is just for young people. Each and every American has the power to make a contribution as significant as Lockhart’s by registering as a donor. As it did with Lockhart, donation ensures a life of service can extend long after you’re gone. Now it’s your turn. Give the gift of life at any age and sign up for the donor registry. You’ll increase the chance that patients waiting will get the transplants they need to survive.