Late-life depression is a serious illness accompanied by medical morbidity, cognitive decline and risk of suicide. Antidepressant medications are a cornerstone of treatment for depressed elders. Although they are optimally provided in conjunction with psychotherapy, in many cases they are used alone. Recently, concern has developed over modern antidepressant medication, including concerns about their ultimate efficacy and particular risks that may be seen in older adult populations. Ultimately, antidepressant medications are effective for many individuals and continue to play an important role in treating depressed elders, although the potential risks must be weighed with the patient and their families. Current data do not support restriction of their use and untreated depression has serious negative health consequences. Patients need treatments with better efficacy and safety, including new pharmacological options and better access to and dissemination of nonpharmacological treatment.