The present study was designed to identify prospectively the individual chronic characteristics associated with falling among elderly persons and to test the hypothesis that risk of falling increases as the number of chronic disabilities increases. Seventy-nine consecutive admissions to three intermediate care facilities were evaluated. Twenty-five of the subjects became recurrent fallers. The nine risk factors included in the fall risk index were mobility score, morale score, mental status score, distant vision, hearing, postural blood pressure, results of back examination, postadmission medications, and admission activities of daily living score. A subject's fall risk score was the number of index factors present. The proportions of recurrent fallers increased from 0 percent (0 of 30) in those with 0 to three risk factors, to 31 percent (11 of 35) in those with four to six factors, to 100 percent (14 of 14) in those with seven or more factors. Falling, at least among some elderly persons, appears to result from the accumulated effect of multiple specific disabilities. Some of these disabilities may be remediable. The mobility test, the best single predictor of recurrent falling, may be useful clinically because it is simple, recreates fall situations, and provides a dynamic, integrated assessment of mobility.