As you may have noticed in the news over the past week, the Red Cross made fresh pleas for more Aussies to donate blood, especially given that levels for certain blood types including O-negative are running extremely low on stock.
The truth is one in three Australians will require blood or plasma at some point in their life. Perhaps it’s something you’ve needed or that a loved one close to you has required for their health, yet many over-60s aren’t sure if they can still donate. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service operates more than 100 blood collection facilities and collects 1.4 million blood donations each year from more than half a million people. Despite many myths and misconceptions, Baby Boomers are still a huge part of the donation process.
“People in the over-60 age group are an important part of our blood donor community,” Australian Red Cross Blood Service Regional Communications Manager Jessica Willet told Starts at 60. “In the past 12 months, more than 78,000 donors aged 60 and over gave a blood donation, which represents more than 15 per cent of all Australian blood donors.”
For the health and safety of donors, new donors can start donating up until the age of 70, while existing blood donors can continue until they turn 81. Having said that, there are some people who may be ineligible to donate for a number of reasons.
“Ongoing health investigations, colds and flus and low iron are some of the more common reasons why people aged 60 and over are unable to donate, but often they can donate again after a short wait,” Willet explained.
In other cases, travelling to malaria-affected countries such as Bali or Thailand can prevent someone from donating, with as many as half of donors in the over-60s age group being deferred for malaria risk. Still, plasma donations can be made immediately after travelling to these countries, while blood and platelet donors only need to wait four months after returning from overseas to donate again.
For some, certain medications can also cause the service to refuse them as a donor.
“Aspirin is the number one reason preventing over-60 blood donors from giving blood,” Willet said. “However, they only need to wait seven days after taking aspirin before they can donate.”
And, if you’re someone who has never donated before and have been put off by horror stories or by how long it takes, it’s usually not as bad as people are expecting.
The process takes around an hour from start to finish and donors are asked to complete a medical questionnaire and health assessment with a nurse, before going on to give the donation.
“The blood donation itself only takes about 10 minutes and once you’ve finished, it’s time to relax in our refreshments lounge and enjoy a drink and salty snack,” Willet explained. “We encourage people not to rule themselves out by assuming they can’t donate blood. Even if you’re unable to donate right now, you may be able to after a short wait.”
For more information or to book an appointment, visit donateblood.com.au or call 12 14 95.