This cross-sectional survey conducted in a university-affiliated community hospital determines the point prevalence rates and identifies demographic, social and clinical correlates of major depressive episode (MDE) among men and women aged 65–74, 75–84, and 85 and older. Items from the Diagnostic Interview Schedule were used to diagnose major depressive episode (MDE); the Depression Status Inventory and the Depression Diagnostic Scale were used to measure its severity. Among 215 newly admitted medical inpatients, 100 men and 115 women who were at most mildly cognitively impaired, the point prevalence rates of MDE were: similar in the three age groups, 28%, 28% and 24% respectively; over twice as high among women as among men aged 65–74 and 75–84; virtually identical among men and women aged 85 and older. The intensity of the MDEs detected was on average mild. Clinically meaningful statistical associations were observed between certain psychological and clinical correlates and MDE. The psychological correlates were absence of meaning in life and premorbid personality. The clinical correlates were impaired ability to perform routine daily activities relating to self-care and previous consultation or treatment for an emotional problem. We contrast our results with those of similar surveys, and identify the clinical and research directions we believe that this and similar work should take.