Although the majority of pain complaints, in Australia, are among the elderly population, the focus of treatment is not on this age group. In order to achieve effective management of elderly people's chronic pain, their perspective of pain and coping strategies used needs to be understood. This qualitative study explored the preferred strategies of elderly people and the barriers they encountered in trying to manage their pain. Elderly people (n = 72) with chronic pain, over 65 years of age and living in the community, were interviewed for the study. Data were collected using six focus group and 12 in-depth interviews and a biographical questionnaire. Preferred coping strategies were those that could be self-administered and included both physical and cognitive elements. Elderly people wished to be active in their treatment, make informed choices and were willing to try new methods. Least-preferred strategies were the conventional treatments of medications, exercise and physiotherapy. Many barriers have to be overcome to achieve relief for their pain such as cost, access to health care, related disorders, attitudes of health professionals, lack of communication and fear of losing independence. Health professionals need to be aware of elderly people's perspective of pain and their preferred strategies and reasons for these choices. Health services must meet their specific needs.