Global ageing demographics coupled with increased urbanisation pose major challenges to the provision of optimal living environments for older persons, particularly in relation to cognitive health. Although animal studies emphasise the benefits of enriched environments for cognition, and brain training interventions have shown that maintaining or improving cognitive vitality in older age is possible, our knowledge of the characteristics of our physical environment which are protective for cognitive ageing is lacking. The present review analyses different environmental characteristics (e.g. urban vs. rural settings, presence of green) in relation to cognitive performance in ageing. Studies of direct and indirect associations between physical environment and cognitive performance are reviewed in order to describe the evidence that our living contexts constitute a measurable factor in determining cognitive ageing.