The Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging (ILSA) is a population-based, longitudinal study of the health status of Italians aged 65-84 years. The main objectives of ILSA are the study of the prevalence and incidence rates of common chronic conditions in the older population, and the identification of their risk and protective factors. ILSA is also designed to assess age-associated physical and mental functional changes. A random sample of 5632 individuals, stratified by age and gender using the equal allocation strategy, was identified on the demographic lists of the registry office of eight municipalities: Genova, Segrate (Milano), Selvazzano-Rubano (Padova), Impruneta (Firenze), Fermo (Ascoli Piceno), Napoli, Casamassima (Bari), and Catania. An extensive investigation, including interviews, physical exams, and laboratory tests, was conducted at baseline to identify the presence of cardiovascular disease (ischemic heart disease, hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, intermittent claudication), diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, thyroid dysfunction, dementia, parkinsonism, stroke, and peripheral neuropathy, as well as assess physical and mental functional status. The baseline examination was carried out between March 1992 and June 1993; a second comprehensive examination will begin in March 1995. An interim hospital discharge data survey and a mortality survey are currently ongoing to assess the hospitalization rate and the cause-specific mortality rate in this study cohort.