The objective of this study was to develop spirometric reference equations for healthy, never-smoking, older adults. It was designed as a cross-sectional observational study consisting of 1510 Seventh Day Adventists, ages 43-79 years enrolled in a study of health effects of air pollutants. Individuals were excluded from the reference group (n = 565) for a history of current respiratory illness, smoking, or chronic respiratory disease, and for a number of 'non-respiratory' conditions which were observed in these data to be related to lower values of FEV1. Gender-specific reference equations were developed for the entire reference group and for a subset above 65 years of age (n = 312). Controlling for height and age, lung function was found to be positively related to the difference between armspan and height, and in males was found to be quadratically related to age. The predicted values for this population generally fell within the range of those of other population groups containing large numbers of adults over the age of 65 years. Individuals with lung function below the 5th percentile in this sample, however, could not be reliably identified by using the lower limits of normal predictions commonly used in North America and Europe.