The prevalence of constipation increases with age. However, constipation is not a physiological consequence of normal ageing. Indeed, the aetiology of constipation in older people is often multifactorial with co-morbid diseases, impaired mobility, reduced dietary fibre intake and prescription medications contributing significantly to constipation in many instances. A detailed clinical history and physical examination including digital rectal examination is usually sufficient to uncover the causes of constipation in older people; more specialized tests of anorectal physiology and colonic transit are rarely required. The scientific evidence base from which to develop specific treatment recommendations for constipation in older people is, for the most part, slim. Constipation can be complicated by faecal impaction and incontinence, particularly in frail older people with reduced mobility and cognitive impairment; preventative strategies are important in those at risk. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.