The present study assessed 106 diabetic patients 2 years after beginning insulin treatment at or after 70 years of age. Ten patients (9%) had had the therapy discontinued after 2-4 months, 26 (25%) had died of causes unrelated to insulin therapy, 12 (11%) were lost to follow-up, and 58 (55%) were still alive and insulin treated. Fifty-one were at home and seven institutionalized for reasons unrelated to insulin therapy. Of these 58 patients, 50 were available for further study. Except for frequency of travel, which had decreased, lifestyle either improved or did not change. Patients' perceptions of the goals of treatment were more appropriate to a younger population of patients, who are less vulnerable to hypoglycaemic reactions. Mean fasting blood glucose was considered by the medical staff to be too low in 42% of cases. Adding insulin to the treatment of the elderly did not negatively affect their lifestyle, and indeed, insulin therapy appeared to create or strengthen the patients' existing social support network. Educational interventions must attempt to extend the effect of the specialized unit outside the hospital, to families, visiting nurses as well as general practitioners.