Although limited numbers of elderly subjects have occasionally been included in population-based studies, only a few studies have been conducted specifically on elderly hypertensives, and practically none at a population level. We studied 655 hypertensive subjects from a cohort of 2,254 elderly subjects. The intervention consisted of the creation of a Hypertension Outpatients' Clinic under our auspices but with complete co-operation from general practitioners, randomizing the identified hypertensive patients into pre-established therapeutic drug regimens, and early follow-up recording of mortality for 7 years. The drugs used were clonidine (n = 61), nifedipine (n = 146) and the fixed combination of atenolol+chlorthalidone (n = 144); 304 subjects underwent "free therapy" by their personal physicians without any special intervention. There were 1,404 normotensive subjects. Overall 7-year follow-up mortality was 34.9% in the hypertensive subjects receiving "free therapy", 22.5% in those receiving "special care", and 24.2% in the normotensives. Cardiovascular mortality was respectively 23.7%, 12.2%, and 12.0%. Overall and cardiovascular annual cumulative mortality were significantly lower in the << special therapy >> than in the << free therapy >> group. The fixed combination of atenolol and chlorthalidone reduced mortality below that of the normotensives, independent of other cardiovascular risk factors.