Influenza causes substantial morbidity across the age spectrum. However, the elderly are especially vulnerable to the serious complications of influenza that might result in hospitalisation or death, and high rates of influenza-associated excess hospitalisation or death that exceed by several-fold the rates seen among most other age groups have consistently been observed in many countries and across many seasons. Thus, the elderly are included among the high priority groups for routine influenza vaccination by many national health authorities. Inactivated influenza virus vaccines are widely available across the globe and are safe and effective. Vaccination of elderly persons has been associated with significant reductions in hospitalisations for pneumonia and influenza as well as hospitalisations for other cardiopulmonary disorders and even cerebrovascular disease. Vaccination has also been associated with reductions in influenza-associated and all-cause mortality during influenza seasons. The benefits of vaccination extend not only to community-dwelling elderly but also to elderly who reside in nursing homes. Likewise, vaccination provides benefits to the very old and to elderly persons with underlying co-morbidities as well as to the healthy elderly. Despite the substantially increased risk for serious complications and impressive benefits from vaccination among the elderly, influenza vaccine utilisation remains below target rates for this group in nearly all countries. The need for improved prevention and control of influenza is recognised as a priority for the global community - both to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with epidemic influenza and to prepare for the next pandemic. Enhancing vaccine delivery to elderly persons would represent important progress toward that goal.