In the 1960s, the term 'presbyoesophagus' was introduced for what were felt to be the characteristics of the oesophagus in old age. Since then a number of sophisticated studies using modern manometric, radiological, pH-metric or endoscopic equipment have been performed to better study this subject. Although results in some aspects are still contradictory, these studies have provided us with some more detailed information on the physiology of the ageing oesophagus. Beginning with an overview of what is currently known and discussed about age-induced physiological changes in oesophageal function, this review will then focus on specific problems of oesophagus-related diseases in the elderly. The main topics discussed will include presentation, diagnosis and treatment of primary and secondary motility disorders, oesophageal manifestations of neuromuscular and neurological disease, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease and oesophageal cancer in the elderly.