- PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review provides an update on new data about the etiology, clinical characteristics, outcomes, and prevention of community-acquired pneumonia. The impact of severe acute respiratory syndrome in older persons is also addressed. RECENT FINDINGS: Streptococcus pneumoniae remains the most important cause of community-acquired pneumonia in the very elderly (80 years and over). Pneumococcus is also an important etiologic agent of pneumonia in residents of long-term care facilities. Clinical signs and symptoms of community-acquired pneumonia are less distinct in this group compared with younger patients. New data about influenza immunization reveal better mucosal immunity with the intranasal vaccine compared with the intramuscular vaccine. A review of clinical trial evidence differs from observational studies that demonstrate a clear benefit of the polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine in the elderly. The prospect of severe acute respiratory syndrome in older adults is the most important new issue to emerge, as older adults are at increased risk from complications and death. SUMMARY: There are many challenges in preventing and managing community-acquired pneumonia in the elderly. S. pneumoniae remains the most important cause. The clinical presentation of pneumonia in the very elderly can be nonspecific. Given the safety profile of the vaccine and supportive observational evidence, public health policymakers should continue to support use of the polysaccharide pneumococcal vaccine. However, research into new vaccine strategies, including use of conjugate or common antigen vaccines, is a priority.