The essence of this text has been to reveal the limits of residential living. We have charted institutional developments over one and a half centuries and produced a critique of present services. Much of the evidence from a study of one hundred homes points to the enormous strides that have been made in residential services. This can be measured in terms of dramatic changes which are visible in both physical and organizational dimensions of residential settings. But at the same time we have been obliged to confront divergences between the aspirations of stated policy and observed residential practice. While the public appearances of people and places may change it is quite apparent that private attitudes towards them may lag. There is much to suggest that society at large fails to acknowledge that it is a positive achievement to enable more people to survive into old age, a tribute to improved public health and welfare provision. Instead, we observe a rolling back of the welfare state as part of an explicit policy switch in which social policy and the needs of vulnerable groups become subordinate to economism. This in turn generates a fear that non-productive individuals may prove an onerous charge on dwindling resources, and there is a grudging policy response which, in the case of old people, is translated through and focused upon the form of the old age home.