Up to 60% of patients who develop severe sepsis in the United States are > or =65 years of age, and the incidence of sepsis in this population is steadily increasing. Elderly individuals have an increased risk of developing sepsis, compared with younger patients, because of frequent comorbidities, institutionalization, declining performance status, and altered immune function. The clinical presentation of older patients with sepsis is often atypical, leading to a difficult and delayed diagnosis. Although increasing age appears to confer a high risk of death due to severe sepsis, recent evidence shows that many older patients respond well to selected interventions when the interventions are initiated in a timely fashion. Newly published clinical practice guidelines outline key recommendations regarding the treatment of patients with severe sepsis. Clinicians must be aware of the level of evidence in support of various interventions and must keenly screen older survivors for ongoing deficits that will limit their functional recovery.