Motor functions decline with age due to a number of factors. There is interest in whether these changes are reflected in the organisation of the cerebral motor system in older subjects and whether such changes might be in some way compensatory. Most studies in humans have used functional brain imaging techniques to compare motor system activation in younger and older subjects. Interpretation of these results is made more difficult by potential neurovascular changes in older subjects. However, in general, there appears to be greater motor task-related brain activity in a wider network of brain regions in older compared to younger subjects. The evidence that these changes are compensatory in nature is less clear. Incorporation of behavioural and anatomical data will be required in order to fully interpret the functional imaging results.