Although inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) usually presents in adolescents and young adults, both ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease can also present in older adults. The diagnosis of IBD in the elderly is often difficult and can easily be confused with diverticulitis or ischaemic colitis. The symptoms and complications of IBD in the elderly are similar to those found in younger patients. However, when IBD presents later in life the disease is often less extensive and milder. Older IBD patients are treated with the same medications as younger patients, although the risk for drug toxicity is greater, especially with corticosteroid therapy. Comorbid illness in older patients often has a significant impact on the outcome of medical and surgical therapy for IBD but, in the absence of significant co-morbid disease, most elderly IBD patients can expect a good response to therapy.