The purpose of this study was to compare strength, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory fitness of the elderly living independently (n = 64) with those in rest or nursing homes (n = 61), and to identify those variables most strongly associated with an independent lifestyle. Quantitative levels of independence (Incapacity Index) and of activity were determined by questionnaires. Flexibility was measured using the Leighton Flexometer. Strength was measured using a modified sphygmomanometer. Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using a self-paced walking test. Body size factors were also determined. Independent and dependent subjects were significantly different in age, which imposed a limitation on interpretation of these data. However, this factor was accounted for statistically in the analyses. Independent individuals compared to dependent ones showed significantly greater flexibility, activity levels, and choice of walking speed. Through multiple regression analysis, it was found that 40% of the variance in Incapacity Index was associated with participation in outdoor activities, greater shoulder flexibility, and a faster normal walking speed (> 1.0 m.s-1).