Thirty-seven million Americans suffer from some form of arthritis and the prevalence of arthritis among the elderly is particularly high. Therefore it is not surprising that there is a large new literature directed toward the epidemiology and health services for the older individual with arthritis. Many studies in osteoarthritis have refined the minutia or confirmed earlier work. Osteoarthritis increases with age and accounts for 46 million patient visits each year, with knee arthritis accounting for the most common complaint initiating such visits. Late stage rheumatoid arthritis has again been strongly associated with shortened life span, and factors predicting early death have been identified. Meanwhile, the "pyramid model" of rheumatoid arthritis treatment has been challenged. Of interest is the identification of obesity as a major risk factor for disability in elderly patients with arthritis and the fact that the incidence of hip fracture in the elderly, already known to be high, may be increasing. A provocative report suggests that mass screening for osteoporosis followed by selective treatment may be more cost effective than empirical treatment of all postmenopausal women.