Our aim is to describe the study recruitment and baseline characteristics of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER) study population. Potential study participants (age 60-77 years, the dementia risk score ≥ 6) were identified from previous population-based survey cohorts and invited to the screening visit. To be eligible, cognitive performance measured at the screening visit had to be at the mean level or slightly lower than expected for age. Of those invited (n = 5496), 48% (n = 2654) attended the screening visit, and finally 1260 eligible participants were randomized to the intervention and control groups (1:1). The screening visit non-attendees were slightly older, less educated, and had more vascular risk factors and diseases present. The mean (SD) age of the randomized participants was 69.4 (4.7) years, Mini-Mental State Examination 26.7 (2.0) points, systolic blood pressure 140.1 (16.2) mmHg, total serum cholesterol 5.2 (1.0) mmol/L for, and fasting glucose 6.1 (0.9) mmol/L for, with no difference between intervention and control groups. Several modifiable risk factors were present at baseline indicating an opportunity for the intervention. The FINGER study will provide important information on the effect of lifestyle intervention to prevent cognitive impairment among at risk persons.