Background. There is a vast array of scales available to assess all aspects of mental and physical health in older people which may be of relevance to the work of old age psychiatrists. Aims. To summarise some of the scales that may be commonly used in clinical and research practice and to give the reader guidelines as to where further information can be obtained. Method. The scales were selected on the basis of the authors' own clinical and research knowledge and information was gathered from a comprehensive text on assessment scales in old age psychiatry. Results. The selected scales are described in brief and a table outlines the purposes for which they are most suitable. Conclusions. Although many scales are available, the choice of the individual scale relies specifically on the question that is to be asked. The ideal scale does not exist.