Electroconvulsive therapy is an important treatment in the depressive states of late life, and there is general agreement about the indications for its use in old age psychiatry. Indeed, old age may be associated with a better response to ECT than that in younger age groups. The additional risk involved through physical problems in the elderly is not great when compared with that of continuing depression and of the side-effects of alternative treatments. Temporary memory disorders and confusion may occur, but are minimised if unilateral electrode placement is used. Some patients treated with unilateral ECT do not respond, but will respond to bilateral treatment. Anxiety over unwanted treatment effects, which can lead to ineffective treatment of depressive illness, must be outweighed by knowledge of the dangers of leaving depression untreated in old age.