Though concerns about age and health are the main reasons older people cite for not becoming organ and tissue donors, some other factors do come into play.
For one thing, organ transplantation is relatively new. It made the news in the ’60s, but it wasn’t until the1980s that it started becoming more common, thanks to the newly discovered immunosuppressant cyclosporine, which helped prevent people’s bodies from rejecting the organs. Because older generations didn’t grow up knowing anyone who had a transplant or who was a donor, they’re dealing with a learning curve, Downing says.
Jacobson, who had the liver transplant in 2006 at age 61, experienced some of that learning curve—mostly through relatives. “My mom had a hard time understanding it,” she says. “She’d introduce me to people, ‘This is my daughter, Sally. She had implants.’”