TRENTON — The Community Blood Council of New Jersey recently spent seven hours on a Mercer County college campus.

Their planned blood drive was well publicized, and incentives were promised to those willing to donate.

Young woman giving her blood (Wavebreakmedia Ltd, ThinkStock)
Wavebreakmedia Ltd, ThinkStock

In the end, just 17 students offered their time and blood.

"Colleges are tough," said Loriann Reinhardt, donor recruitment account manager for the Community Blood Council. "The kids — I don't know if their schedules are too tight, but they're not motivated to come out and donate at all."

It's been a struggle to get younger residents interested in donating, Reinhardt said. Creating a new class of regular donors is a concern in the Garden State and nationwide as older adults who donate regularly — and make up the bulk of blood supply — either fall off the wagon or age out.

Just 5 percent of New Jerseyans donate on a regular basis, Reinhardt said.

"Once that 5 percent is too old to donate, we're just going to keep going down, less and less," she said.

Individuals aged 40 and over are responsible for nearly 60 percent of all blood donations, according to the international nonprofit AABB, USA Today reported. Nearly 45 percent of donations come from folks older than 50.

An age maximum for donating blood is not set in stone. Senior citizens are eligible given they pass all donor criteria and have donated in the recent past.

According to Reinhardt, older individuals have an easier time grasping the altruistic nature of giving blood — a donation that the Community Blood Council says can save three local lives.

"They've had family affected. They've seen that there's an actual need," she said.

But getting that message across to the younger crowd takes a considerable effort.

"It seems like when we do try to get the younger donors, the first question is, 'What's in it for me?'" Reinhardt said. "And it's not about what's in it for you. It's about how you can give forward and do something good for your community?

Just this week, Reinhardt visited two New Jersey high schools, hoping to spark a desire to donate among those headed to college and then the real world. The Community Blood Council also sends speakers into elementary schools to "get them excited" about being future donors.

"I think when you get them at a young age and they understand it, it's a more of a mission," Reinhardt said.

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