One hundred healthy subjects over the age of 65 years were interviewed and examined. The range of movement of their shoulder joints was recorded. Assessment of the prevalence of symptomatic shoulder joint disorders and their nature was also made. The impact of the presence and severity of such disorders on their functional independence was evaluated by means of the Katz Scale of Index of Independence in the Activities of Daily Living. Ranges of all movements were considerably reduced in this age group compared to figures for a younger population. The prevalence of symptomatic shoulder disorders was 34% of which a rotator cuff lesion was the most common. Disability related to these disorders was found in 30% of the study population and was significantly associated with reduced movement. It is suggested that treatment of these disorders might improve quality of life and that routine examination of the shoulder in the aging population would identify those at risk of losing their independence.