Dysphagia is an important problem for the elderly. While well characterized in acutely ill populations, the prevalence and quality-of-life changes associated with dysphagia remain poorly defined in the community geriatric population. This study recruited individuals 65 years and older from an independent-living facility. Two validated questionnaires were used: the M.D. Anderson Dysphagia Inventory (MDADI) and the general health Short Form-12 survey (SF-12v2). Each participant also answered two questions: "Do you have difficulties with swallowing?" and "Do you think that swallowing difficulties are a natural part of aging?" Fifteen percent of subjects reported difficulties with swallowing. Of these, over half suffered substantial quality-of-life impairment in one or more domains of the MDADI. With respect to the second question, 23.4% of subjects believed dysphagia to be a normal part of aging, 37.4% did not. The SF-12v2 only weakly correlated with the MDADI in this population. In conclusion, there is a relatively high prevalence of dysphagia in the community-based geriatric population; significant quality-of-life impairment is a frequent finding. General health measures do not appear to be sensitive to swallowing-related quality of life. Finally, individuals may inaccurately ascribe swallowing problems to normal aging, supporting the role of community education about dysphagia in the elderly.