Q - I heard there is an age cut-off for donating blood – is this true? What are the most common reasons a senior donor might be deferred from donating blood? And what are the most common reasons a senior might need blood products to stay healthy?
A – These are great questions and will hopefully help spread the message about the importance of blood donation! We’ll start with answering your first question in this edition of “Maturity Matters”, followed by responses to your second two questions in future issues. For many years, Canadian Blood Services deferred donors from giving blood once reaching a certain age – either 61 years of age for first time donors, or 71 for regular donors. Over time, increasing evidence indicated that healthy, senior donors could safely donate and also, many of our loyal, long term, and highly motivated senior donors were advocating that they be allowed to continue donating. In December 2004, after careful assessment, Canadian Blood Services obtained Health Canada approval to allow seniors to begin donating blood after age 61 and continue donating beyond age 71, after assessment of their fitness to donate by their physician. Seniors are asked to complete a medical document, called the “Letter to the Attending Physician” which is given to their doctor, to indicate their assessed fitness to donate and, which is then returned to Canadian Blood Services. The form can be obtained at your local blood donor clinic or online at www.blood.ca, and should be completed if you are a first-time donor above the age of 61, or annually for donors above the age of 71.
Today, senior donors are an important part of Canadian Blood Services’ donor base. In British Columbia, for example, while donors above the age of 65 account for 3.7 per cent of the overall donor base, they also account for 5.2 per cent of all donations, proving they’re among our most loyal and frequent blood donors.
Dr. Mark Bigham is a Medical Consultant for both Canadian Blood Services and Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia.