The proportion of patients older than 80 years admitted to the ICU is constantly increasing. Despite well-known admission criteria, older patients are frequently not referred and are admitted to the ICU. The emergency ward and ICU management of acute medical conditions should not depend on age only, but should be tailored to the individual patient in line with standards of care. After the successful treatment of acute illness, elderly people should receive complex and prolonged physical, social and psychological rehabilitation. Nevertheless, we must be able to recognize the point of futile treatment and provide proper palliative care. Less traumatised procedures that are better tolerated are preferred in the management of specific medical conditions in geriatric patients. General preventive programs promoting healthy lifestyles have been developed, but these must be implemented by a majority of older people. Medical science should promote adequate education of all professionals who are involved in the treatment of geriatric patients; societies should provide equal access to health-care in developed countries and countries in transition.
Key words: intensive care unit, outcome, survival, elderly, treatment intensity