This chapter analyses relevant literature and statistics relating to elderly people in order to explore the theoretical feasibility of them assuming an active role on discharge from hospital and in the short period afterwards. It provides a broad, general view of the position of elderly people in contemporary UK society, critically analysing their position from social, economic and structural perspectives. 'Elderly people' are a group to which the majority of the population will eventually belong if they survive, unlike females or ethnic groups. Discussion of elderly people in terms of their problems and needs holds the risk of 'welfarising' the group, a patronising approach, inevitably resulting in a diminution of the group under study. Former occupation can be used to determine the socio-economic grouping of elderly people although it is not always a reliable measure due to changes in employment in later years. Views of elderly people as a 'burden' have been influential in creating the discriminatory concept of 'ageism'.