Elderly patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) are at increased risk of developing aging-related problems, such as frailty, impaired physical function, falls, poor nutrition and cognitive impairment. These factors affect dialysis outcomes, which can be very poor in frail, elderly patients who often experience a decline in overall health and physical function and have short survival. The default treatment option for these patients is hospital-based hemodialysis, often with little consideration of how this modality will affect the survival or quality of life of individual patients. A comparison of quality of life of elderly patients on hemodialysis versus peritoneal dialysis shows that those on peritoneal dialysis have less illness intrusion. Assisted peritoneal dialysis enables a greater number of frail, elderly patients to have dialysis in their own homes. Dialysis may not extend survival for those with multiple comorbidities, so conservative care (nondialysis treatment) should be considered. To improve the outcomes of elderly patients with ESRD, it is necessary to develop a realistic approach to overall prognosis, quality of life and how the patient copes with the disabilities associated with aging. This approach includes having discussions regarding choice of treatment and end-of-life goals with patients and families.