One-fifth of all humans who have survived beyond the age of 65 are alive today, and in the industrialized world the elderly segment of the population is expanding most rapidly. In biological terms, these survivors are healthier than the elderly of previous generations. However 'there are no diseases peculiar to old age and very few from which it is exempt' (Alfred Worcester, 1855-1951), and so society will inevitably accumulate a significant share of degenerative diseases within the ranks of its senior citizens. In the last two decades, the prevalence of stroke, diabetes mellitus, arthritis and heart disease has increased significantly as a tangible index of ageing in the population, and these diseases have been accompanied by degenerating cognitive function and physical disability, both of which are adding increasing stress to community healthcare and social services. Policy-makers need to understand and monitor these trends in order to make informed and cogent decisions about the management of this growing problem. This review highlights some of the key health issues facing the elderly in regard to coronary artery disease, insulin resistance, redox status, and statin therapy, in the hope that enlightened debate will inform decision making on resource allocation for this important and growing segment of society.