The design of the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) is described. CHAP is a longitudinal population study of common chronic health problems of older persons, especially of risk factors for incident Alzheimer's disease, in a biracial neighborhood of the south side of Chicago. Special attention is given to three unusual design features of the study. One feature is that clinical evaluation for Alzheimer's disease is confined to a stratified random sample of all participants. This feature results in substantial cost savings and substantially less bias than screening approaches but has the disadvantages of adding analytic complexity and requiring the use of indirect means to identify a disease-free cohort for the development of incident Alzheimer's disease. The second unusual feature is efficiently combining in analyses the successive independent multiple samples that are drawn, one from each data collection cycle. The third unusual feature is entering successive age cohorts of community residents into the study as they attain 65 years of age. This has the advantages of enhancing direct investigation of the effect of age on the action of risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and direct examination of cohort effects. The interaction of these features is described, especially as they pertain to a study in which data are collected in successive waves. The results from these waves must be combined for effective analysis of the relation among risk factors and incident disease.