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How Old is Too Old to Donate a Kidney?

Kari Rancourt, Living Donor Transplant Coordinator, Hartford Hospital

Are you considering becoming a living kidney donor but worry you might be too old to donate? Here’s what you need to know about age limits for living kidney donation.

The bottom line is, when it comes to donating a kidney, there is no such thing as “too old.” Age can be a concern due to several factors, but if an individual is healthy, they can donate a kidney at almost any age. Transplant centers may have their own individual rules and guidelines related to donor age, but there is no maximum age limit to register to become a donor through the National Kidney Registry

A 2011 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that kidney transplants performed using organs from living donors over the age of 70 are safe for both the donors and the recipients. Provided they are healthy, people can become donors into their late 70s, and there have even been several cases of living donors in their 80s, and at least one in their early 90s.

According to the latest data from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN), which tracks every organ donation and transplant event occurring in the U.S., 2.5% of all living kidney donors to date have been over 65, while 23.4% have been between the ages of 50 and 64. And those numbers are increasing as transplant centers get better at evaluating older donor candidates based on their health rather than solely their age. In 2023, 6.6% of all living kidney donors were over 65, and 31.5% were aged 50–64.

There are many lessons in my experience, the most important of which is to be persistent about becoming a donor, no matter how old you are. I was told by the center that four out of five centers would have refused to consider me as a donor due to my age. But just age does not speak to an individual’s health.

Sander Orent, donated a kidney at age 72

Kent Martin donated at age 60, after being told years earlier that he was too old to donate. Kathie Neyman thought she might be considered too old to donate at 63, but she passed the screening with flying colors and donated in 2022. Sander Orent had to try a couple different transplant centers to find one that would accept him, but Centura Porter Adventist Hospital approved him and he donated his kidney to his wife at age 72. Michelle Rhiner also became a kidney donor at 72 and had such an easy recovery that she walked 6,000 steps on her second day out of the hospital.

If you are an older potential living kidney donor, it’s important to remember that every transplant center has its own policies and guidelines regarding donor age. If you are healthy and willing to become a donor, don’t be discouraged if a transplant center turns you down based on your age. If you are healthy, keep looking—there’s a good chance you will find one that will accept you. While some transplant centers may have a hard cutoff for kidney donor age, an increasing number are focusing more on health and evaluating older donors on a case-by-case basis.

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