This paper examines use of alternative therapies to manage a chronic illness among older adults with at least one of three major conditions: arthritis, heart disease, and hypertension. Drawing from developments in the health utilization literature, a focus is placed on the illness context, predisposing factors, and several factors deemed to enable persons to use complementary medicine. The baseline data (n = 879) from the 1995–96 North Shore Self-Care Study conducted in Vancouver, Canada were used for this study. Two dependent variables were analysed using logistic regression techniques – the first is based on a comprehensive question about using alternative therapies (such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, massage therapy, etc.) to manage a chronic condition; and the second uses a more specific question pertaining to meditation or praying. The results from the first analysis show that being younger, suffering from arthritis compared to hypertension, comorbidity, taking fewer medications, lower income, reading on the chronic condition, and the interaction between reading and illness self-efficacy are associated with trying alternative therapies. The findings for the second analysis show that being female, being younger, and not married, as well as reporting a more serious condition, illness duration and the interaction between having moderate levels of mutual aid and number of confidants result in a greater likelihood of trying meditation/prayer. Implications of these results are discussed in terms of their theoretical import, and their relevance for the degree to which unconventional and conventional medicine are complementary.