Drawing on conceptions of need in the literature, the paper has as its starting point the view that need is socially constructed. It then examines existing research evidence and:
- Makes explicit the assumptions underpinning policy and service conceptions of need;
- Reviews what is known about levels of unmet need within this relatively narrow framework;
- Examines the difficulties many older people experience in translating 'felt' need into requests for help;
- Considers how a user conception of need might be developed.