BACKGROUND: Active ageing is a key to healthy ageing; shopping behaviour is an economically relevant activity of the elderly. METHODS: Analysis was based on the NAHSIT 1999-2000 dataset. A total of 1841 representative free-living elderly Taiwanese people were selected and information included demographics, socioeconomic status, health behaviours, shopping frequencies, physical function and cognitive function. These data were linked to official death records. Cox proportional hazard models were used to evaluate shopping frequency on death from 1999-2008 with possible covariate adjustment. RESULTS: Highly frequent shopping compared to never or rarely predicted survival (HR 0.54, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.67) with adjustment for physical function and cognitive function and other covariates HR was 0.73 (95% CI 0.56 to 0.93). Elderly who shopped every day have 27% less risk of death than the least frequent shoppers. Men benefited more from everyday shopping than women with decreased HR 28% versus 23% compared to the least. CONCLUSION: Shopping behaviour favourably predicts survival. Highly frequent shopping may favour men more than women. Shopping captures several dimensions of personal well-being, health and security as well as contributing to the community's cohesiveness and economy and may represent or actually confer increased longevity.