In all industrialized countries, life expectancy has risen in the past 100 years. The incidence of elderly patients reaching end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and requiring renal replacement therapy has also increased. During the past few decades, the pattern of ESRD has changed significantly with the emerging predominance of elderly patients. The causes of this phenomenon are manifold and include an increasing number of chronic diseases typical of the 'third age', such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and vascular disease. In many species, a consequence of aging includes deterioration of renal function, partly due to structural alterations, and partly as the result of a diminishing blood flow. In humans, the aging kidney is characterized by modifications resulting from organic and functional disturbances. In particular, type 2 diabetes mellitus has emerged as an important condition, the microvascular and macrovascular complications of which are a common cause of morbidity and mortality in older patients. In Part II of this review, the specific aspects of renal replacement therapy in the elderly will be discussed.