Conflict of interest: none declared. Financial support: none declared.
Many elderly have mild physical disorders.
It is difficult to differentiate between the physiological symptoms of ageing and disorders in the elderly patient.
Many disorders present as non-specific signs or symptoms in the elderly.
The relevance of an abnormality can be judged by comparing the patient’s current state with his or her prior level of functioning: what aspect of his or her condition has changed?
Attributing an abnormality to a disease instead of aging only makes sense if it has therapeutic consequences for the patient; in this respect, the patient’s level of functioning is an important frame of reference.