Alcohol abuse and dependence in older people are important problems, which frequently remain undetected by health services. Therefore, screening instruments for alcohol abuse and dependence in elderly people would be useful in clinical practice. To assess the quality of screening instruments we performed a literature search in Medline (1966-2002) and PsycINFO (1967-2002). Seven research reports were found. The MAST-G and especially the CAGE appear appropriate. The two questions of Cyr and Wartman, AUDIT and the MAST do not appear appropriate in screening for alcohol abuse and dependence in elderly people in a clinical environment.