This prospective, observational one-year study analyzed 623 patients who were 60 years and older, out of a cohort of 2375 patients who were admitted consecutively to the general surgery wards of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). Even though only 9.7% of the Jamaican population are 60 years and older, this age group accounted for 26.2% of total admissions. Comparison of elderly and non-elderly patients showed no differences in gender, but less elderly patients were emergency admissions (52% vs 64%, p < 0.001), more underwent surgery (68% vs 60%, p < 0.001), their mean hospital stay was longer (11.5 vs 8.0 days, p < 0.001) and their mortality rate was higher (8.8% vs 1.9%, p < 0.001). Emergency admissions (52%) exceeded elective admissions in the elderly. Forty-four (80%) of the 55 deaths in the elderly group were admitted as emergencies compared to elective admissions (p < 0.001). There were 11 deaths among the 296 elective admissions (3.7%) but 44 deaths among the 327 emergency admissions (13.5%), a significant difference in mortality rates (p < 0.001). Overall, the death rate for males was higher. Cancer was the commonest admission diagnosis (21%) and that amongst mortalities. Steps to improve the opportunities for earlier admission and optimization of care of elderly surgical patients would not only benefit them but would be an important step towards a more efficient use of already scarce resources.