Background: while it is well established that individual patient preferences regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may change with time, the stability of population preferences, especially during periods of social and economic change, has received little attention.Objective: to elicit the resuscitation preferences of older Irish inpatients and to compare the results with an identical study conducted 15 years earlier.Methods: one hundred and fifty older medical inpatients awaiting discharge in a university teaching hospital or a district general hospital subjects were asked about resuscitation preferences. Results were compared to those elicited from a hundred subjects in 1992.Results: most patients (94%) felt it was a good idea for doctors to discuss CPR routinely with patients, compared with 39% in 1992. In their current health, 6% in 2007 and 76% in 1992 would refuse CPR. The independent predictors of refusal of CPR in current health on logistic regression were age and year of assessment. In the final model, those aged 75-84 years [OR 2.77 (95% CI 1.25-6.13), P = 0.02] and 85 years or more [OR 15.19 (4.26-54.15), P < 0.0001] were more likely than those aged 65-74 years (reference group) to refuse CPR. Those questioned in 2007 [OR 0.04 (0.02-0.81), P < 0.0001] were less likely than those questioned in 1992 (reference group) to refuse CPR.Conclusions: there has been a significant shift in the attitudes of older Irish inpatients over 15 years towards favouring greater patient participation in decision making and an increased desire for resuscitation.