Scientific and clinical advances in the last century have led to increased numbers of individuals living to older ages. Thus a major concern is how to live these years with a high quality of life. The ageing immune system is less well able to cope with infectious diseases than the youthful immune system probably as a consequence of altered immune response to pathogens. Thus, both innate and adaptive immune responses show age-related changes that could be decisive for healthy ageing and survival. Longitudinal studies in healthy elderly have allowed the definition of the ''immune risk phenotype" (IRP) a predictor of mortality in elderly individuals that is based on several parameters of the adaptive immune response. Here, we hypothesize that failures in innate immunity observed in frail elderly are related to those alterations described in adaptive immunity defined as the IRP. It will be important to include assays of NK cell markers and functions in future longitudinal studies in order to investigate this point in detail as well as to consider the trace element zinc as an essential co-factor for optimal NK cell activity.