There is widespread evidence both of the exclusion of older people from clinical research, and of under-recruitment to clinical trials. This review and opinion piece provides practical advice to assist researchers both to adopt realistic, achievable recruitment rates and to increase the number of older people taking part in research. It analyses 14 consecutive recently published trials, providing the number needed to be screened to recruit one older participant (around 3:1), numbers excluded (up to 49%), drop out rates (5-37%) and whether the planned power was achieved. The value of planning and logistics are outlined, and approaches to optimising recruitment in hospital, primary care and care home settings are discussed, together with the challenges of involving older adults with mental incapacity and those from minority groups in research. The increasingly important task of engaging older members of the public and older patients in research is also discussed. Increasing the participation of older people in research will improve the generalisability of research findings and inform best practice in the clinical management of the growing older population.