Services for elderly, mentally ill people have developed in response to changing needs in society. In 1990 most of the 650 beds allocated to elderly patients in psychiatric hospitals were occupied by long-term care patients. Outpatient programmes hardly existed. In 1995 about 400 beds were allocated to geriatric psychiatry. They were served by 40 physicians and 20 psychologists. Out-patients' clinics were established. Most of the in-patients were short-term admissions. Nowadays, departments of geriatric psychiatry define themselves as diagnostic and short-term units. About a third of the in-patients suffer from dementia, a third from depression, and a third from various other psychiatric disorders. The authors recommend that a special unit for geriatric psychiatry should be established in every county in Norway. Funds should be allocated for professorships at all universities.