Can Seniors Donate Blood?

January 12, 2023

The short answer is simple, yes…but with conditions. Most blood donors are proud to have been able to serve their community throughout the course of their lives, and under the right conditions should be able to continue donating blood well into their golden years. Donors are required to meet eligibility criteria based on health, wellness and lifestyle.

However, when it comes to senior-aged loved ones and donating blood, there are always some precautions that must be taken. We know that even though your elderly family members may want to continue donating blood, you still have concerns about their well-being in the process.
Before you schedule their next donation appointment, here are some of the requirements to expect for senior blood donors.

Although there isn’t an age limit to blood donations, there is definitely a weight requirement in place to ensure donors remain healthy after the procedure. The minimum weight for someone to donate blood is 110 pounds.

Those under the weight requirement may not be able to comfortably withstand losing the amount of blood that’s taken out with each donation. If someone donates while underweight the chances are high that they will faint during the process. Once this happens, the technician will quickly lay the donor back to raise their feet and remove the needle.

General Health
Consider your loved one’s immune system before taking a trip to the blood bank. Being in good health before giving blood is essential, so if the donor has recently experienced an illness like the flu or a cold, they’ll be deferred from giving blood this time around.

There is a danger that the illness will quickly return or symptoms will worsen. Although most people can shrug off the common cold or virus, the elderly can face life-threatening complications when prolonged or recurring illnesses arise.

Be Prepared for Individual Circumstances
Some states and blood banks may have their own individual requirements for elderly community members who wish to donate. For example, some associations may require a doctor’s note that ensures the patient’s good health before donating blood. Some may even impose their own age limitations. 

The New York Blood Center (NYBC) says once a donor reaches the age of 75, they must obtain a note from their primary physician stating that they are in good health to donate. Once this note is documented by NYBC when a donor presents to give blood, they can continue to donate with no upper age limit. 

Donor Ineligibility
There are a few circumstances that could temporarily (or permanently) prevent someone from being able to give blood. These include:
Not feeling well for any reason
Cold, sore throat, respiratory infection, flu
Travel to an area of the world where malaria is a problem
Certain cases of heart disease
Recent Ears, nose or skin piercing
Recent tattoos (depending on the state the tattoo was done)
Pregnancy, abortion or miscarriage
Surgery, serious injury
Syphilis, gonorrhea
Have had certain forms of cancer
Recent Blood transfusion
Illicit drug use, especially with a needle
Antibiotics if taken for infection (except antibiotics for acne) 

Most of these restrictions require a short deferral time before being able to safely donate again. If any of the above applies or there are other questions a donor may have it is better to call your local blood center to confirm your eligibility beforehand. At the same time, ask about whether they have any age restrictions or requirements for donors over 65.

Instead of donating blood themselves, there are several other things that your older loved one can do to support their favorite cause.
The New York Blood Center suggests a few ways to get involved without giving blood:

  • Encourage your loved ones to find a local donor center to give blood regularly.
  • Help recruit blood donations in your area and promoting upcoming blood drives
  • Volunteer by greeting and registering donors as they arrive at a donor center
  • Donate money to support the New York Blood Center research
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