OBJECTIVE: The study aimed to characterize the demographics, diagnostic makeup and aspects of patient management for the inpatient population of a large aged psychiatry service. METHOD: Sociodemographic and clinical variables were retrospectively collated from inpatient files and discharge summaries over a 3-year period. Age, gender, country of birth, diagnostic group, length of stay, involuntary care status and number of admissions were described and analysed. A total of 604 patients were included in the study, with complete data available for 516. RESULTS: Approximately half of the patients were aged 65-75 years and 59.3% were female. More than half had been born outside of Australia. The primary diagnosis was an affective disorder in 39.0% of admissions, dementia in 27.5% and psychotic illnesses in 25.8%. The median length of stay was 28 days; 60.8% had a period of involuntary care and 79.8% had only one admission. CONCLUSION: In the near future, aged psychiatry services will face increased numbers of patients and rising expectations. To best respond to these challenges, we need to have an understanding of current patient and service profiles. The findings of this study illustrate a range of patient, diagnostic and management variables in aged psychiatry practice. This information can be used for comparison with other services and in planning for future development of services.