Little documentation exists concerning the extent of functional disability in the hospitalized elderly and the impact of this disability on the care of these patients. A physician-led survey was conducted in a 400-bed community hospital of 279 patients aged 70 or more years. Considerable agecorrelated disability was documented. Fifty-four percent of the patients aged 85 years or older were moderately or severely disoriented. Thirty-four percent had impaired hearing, 40% had impaired vision, and 25% had speech impairments. More than half of the patients 75 years or older needed assistance with activities of daily living. Modern hospital design and services may interfere with functional recovery. Evaluation of special care units to minimize the hazards of hospitalizing the elderly is recommended.