Objective: Oxidative stress has been reported to increase with ageing. However, the data in healthy humans remain controversial and studies in free-living elderly people are scarce. The objective of the present study was to compare age-related oxidative stress in late middle-aged and older free-living subjects. Design: The effect of ageing on oxidative stress and antioxidant parameters was investigated in 188 middle-aged subjects from Clermont-Ferrand (France) and Coleraine (UK), and in 199 older subjects from Grenoble (France) and Roma (Italy). Plasma thiol (SH) groups, define definition (TBAR's) and total glutathione (GSH), define definition (FRAP), and superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity were measured at baseline of the ZENITH study. Results: Plasma SH groups and FRAP and, surprisingly, TBAR's were significantly lower in free-living older subjects compared to younger subjects (P<0.001, P<0.001, P<0.01, respectively), but there was no significant differences in GSH levels. Conclusion: European free-living healthy older do not appear to be exposed to an acute oxidative stress. However, the highly significant positive correlation between plasma SH group oxidation or decreased FRAP and ageing is predictive of an increased risk of oxidative stress in older subjects. Moreover, the comparison between middle-aged and older subjects regarding oxidative stress parameters suggests also a progressive and slow decline of antioxidant status in healthy free-living older elderly and underline the impact on life-style factors on successful ageing.