Recent demographic data from the United States and Europe demonstrate that the dialysis population is growing progressively older. In the United States the median age at onset of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) had reached 61 years in 1990, and the fraction of ESRD patients older than 65 years will approach 60% by the year 2000. The primary treatment of geriatric ESRD is center hemodialysis (82% of elderly patients). Chronic peritoneal dialysis in this age group is limited in the United States to less than 10%. Only 2.7% of elderly patients have a functioning transplant. Despite their complex medical and psychosocial conditions, survival and rehabilitation are acceptable in the elderly dialysis patient and these patients tend to be more complaint. Five-year dialysis patient survival rates in the United States are 19% and 10%, respectively, for the 65 to 74 and 75 to 84 age groups compared with 32% and 19%, respectively, for the same age groups in Europe. Five-year survival, particularly in the elderly, is even higher in Japan. Several factors favor the delivery of low doses of hemodialysis in the elderly and discontinuing dialysis is more common in the elderly. Continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis is a satisfactory alternative treatment modality for geriatric ESRD. Most studies confirm that survival of elderly patients on continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis is similar. The 1991 United States Renal Data System report showing higher mortality among diabetic continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis patients than among hemodialysis patients may reflect selection of such patients, who may have more co-morbid conditions. In special cases, continuous cyclic peritoneal dialysis can be an alternative treatment for elderly ESRD patients.