The prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) increases with age. As people are living longer, nephrologists are responsible for a progressively older cohort of patients with substantial comorbidities. Patients with CKD have a significant symptom burden and can benefit from intervention and symptom control from an early stage in the illness. It is also increasingly recognised that renal replacement therapy may not always offer an improvement in symptoms or a survival advantage to older patients with high levels of comorbidity. For these reasons, non-dialytic (conservative) management and end-of-life care is becoming part of routine nephrology practice. Such patients will also frequently be encountered in other specialities, requiring generalists to have some renal-specific skills and knowledge. Although there have been significant advances in this field in recent years, the optimum model of care and some of the care preferences of patients remain challenges that need to be addressed.