A number of recent reports have highlighted the inadequate provision of pain relief for older inpatients. Despite the availability of numerous validated pain measures, pain remains poorly assessed in some cases and, particularly, in the cognitively impaired. Without proper assessment, patients may receive inadequate or inappropriate analgesia, both of which can worsen outcome. Most drugs and techniques that are used for analgesia in younger patients are also suitable for older patients, although dosages may have to be adjusted to avoid the side-effects that are consequent upon age-related changes in drug pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, co-morbidity, frailty, cognitive impairment and polypharmacy. This paper reviews current guidelines and methods of assessing pain in the older adult, and describes the use of, and problems with, mild, moderate, strong, adjuvant and local anaesthetic drugs in the older population for analgesia, advocating multimodal intervention to reduce dose-related side-effects, particularly of opioids.