The availability of dialysis for patients with end-stage renal failure in the United Kingdom has lagged behind that in most of the rest of Europe and USA, although there has been considerable improvement over recent years. Concern about prognosis and quality of life on renal replacement therapy, together with shortage of facilities has meant that some elderly people have been denied treatment. A retrospective study of all patients commencing renal replacement therapy in Newcastle between 1974 and 1985 was performed. The five year survival of patients aged more than 60 years at the start of treatment (n = 122) was 53%, compared with 68% for a cohort of individuals aged less than 60 years (n = 632). A questionnaire sent to the 62 elderly patients surviving at the end of the follow-up period revealed that most were married, independent, active and lived in their own home. They were not lonely, generally enjoyed life and were happy with their mode of renal replacement therapy. These results show that elderly patients make good dialysis candidates and they should not be denied treatment on the basis of age alone. Greater funding of renal services is necessary to accommodate these patients.