Of 390 residents in 12 local-authority homes for the elderly, 93 had evidence of depression on screening and underwent standard clinical assessment. Half had an affective disorder, and a further third had depressive symptoms in the setting of an organic mental disorder. The 93 residents had a high rate of physical illness and disability, undertook little social activity, and were visited infrequently. A range of interventions for depressed residents, the majority social in type, mostly proved difficult to implement. There was no evidence of efficacy of psychiatric intervention at three months; at one-year follow-up a quarter of study participants had died, and 28% of those who were reassessed for depression showed evidence of recovery.