In a community sample of the elderly (N = 274) in Hobart, Tasmania, cases of dementia and depression were ascertained by the Canberra Geriatric Mental State and the Mini Mental State Examination. Social relationships and support were examined by means of the Interview Schedule for Social Interaction. The elderly had fewer social relationships than younger adults, but were more content with what they did have. Elderly women had more affectional ties than elderly men. The presence of offspring in the same town increased the number of close ties and of social relationships, but was more important for men than for women. Persons with cognitive impairment or an established dementia reported that they had less social interaction than they would like. Depressed subjects reported having markedly less social interaction than the mentally healthy elderly, but did not complain that it was too little. This study provides a systematic description of the social environment of the elderly, both in mental health and in states of depression or impaired cognition.