Twelve healthy subjects, six young and six elderly, of either sex, took part in this two-period crossover study. In each session, a dose of trial drug--either 200 mg caffeine or a matching placebo--was given orally at 0900 hours. A battery of psychomotor tests and visual analogue scales was administered before treatment and at 1, 2 and 3 h post-treatment. The objective tests showed a significant increase in tapping rate in the young, while the elderly showed improved attention, faster choice-reaction time, and greater body sway on caffeine. The visual analogue scales showed that the young subjects felt more alert, calmer, more interested, and steadier on caffeine, while no significant changes were seen in the elderly. These results show that caffeine produces changes predominantly in the direction of improved performance and feeling of well-being, and suggest that the elderly are more sensitive to the objective effects of the drug, while reporting less subjective effect than the young.