Depression in older people is common, under-recognised and often undertreated. This study aimed to explore the reasons why older people with depression may not present to primary care. Secondary analysis was carried out, of qualitative data collected in two previous studies in North-West England. Older people are reluctant to recognise and name ‘depression’ as a set of symptoms that legitimises attending their general practitioner (GP). They do not consider themselves candidates for help for their distress. This is partly due to perceptions of the role of the GP but also to previous negative experiences of help seeking. In addition, treatments offered, which are predominantly biomedical, may not be acceptable to older people. Interventions offered to older people need to encourage social engagement, such as befriending, and enhancement of creative, physical and social activity.