Any discussion of policy and practice in residential care must recognize the challenge of a new era in which growing old is no longer experienced as a novel social event. Substantial numbers of frail dependent people aged seventy-five or more are now making their legitimate demands on the state (Blythe 1979), and these increasing numbers and legitimate demands have to be seen against a backcloth of national economic difficulties together with social and political change. This, inter alia, has encouraged a shift in focus towards the provision of community care which is often regarded as a preferred and lower-cost alternative to residential care (DHSS 1981a; 1981b).