As average life expectancy increases, so do the incidence of chronic diseases and the number of persons receiving long-term drug therapy. Thus elderly patients' noncompliance with medication regimens has the potential for sweeping medical and economic consequences and is likely to become increasingly important in the design of disease-management programs for this population. The author conducted a MEDLINE search of the English-language literature for the years 1962 to 1997 to identify articles concerning predictors of medication compliance in the elderly. A descriptive analysis of this literature indicated that there remains some uncertainty about the reasons for noncompliant medication-taking in the elderly. Clear associations have been established between elderly patients' medication adherence and race, drug and dosage form, number of medications, cost of medications, insurance coverage, and physician-patient communication. However, the findings are inconsistent with regard to the effects of patients' age, sex, socioeconomic status, living arrangement, comorbidities, number of physician visits, and knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about health. Until the results of further comprehensive studies are available, the current knowledge should be considered when designing and implementing disease-management programs for the elderly.