399 elderly patients were studied in order to establish the frequency of different gastrointestinal diseases and to see to what extent gastrointestinal problems influenced the clinical picture and the final outcome. 276 patients were hospitalized because of medical emergencies. 123 patients were chronically ill. In the first group, 26.8% (74) had major gastrointestinal problems. In 42% of the remaining patients, important functional or organic gastrointestinal disorders were present. In the second group, 46% of the patients had gastrointestinal diseases. Lesions of the digestive system are an important cause of morbidity and mortality in the aged.