Much recent attention has focussed on the structured dependency of the elderly in modern society, particularly on their reliance on the public sector for economic support. This article explores the notion of dependency on both informal and formal sources of care, for reasons of physical and mental, as well as economic, disadvantage. This broader concept of dependency forms the basis for re-examination of the social creation of dependency amongst the elderly, drawing on illustrations from Australian health and welfare programs. Current social welfare practices are shown to structure and increase the dependency which those elderly in need of some government assistance are likely to experience. The need for increased flexibility in welfare provision and increased autonomy for the individual is emphasized, and an expanded range of service provision posited as a strategy to reduce both dependency itself, and its negative consequences for social welfare recipients.