This study aims to measure objectively and/or estimate the needs of impaired elderly persons and their families for social care services. The research was carried out in Maebashi, a medium size Japanese city. In our study, ‘impaired elderly persons’ included both physically and/or mentally impaired persons. In total, 693 impaired elderly persons and their families were classified according to 20 specific types of need: these ‘need types’ were cross-tabulated with two sets of factors: (1) Severity of impairments and (2) Difficulty of caregivers in providing the required care. A standard model of the service provision necessary for each ‘need type’ was established through group consultation with social care service professionals. Finally, the total amount of each service required in the city was calculated. Major findings are: (1) Our estimates indicate that 7.1 per cent of all persons 65 and over residing in Maebashi City were physically and/or mentally impaired to a certain degree. (2) Forty per cent of these elderly people were being cared for by caregivers who themselves had serious difficulties. (3) The demand for social care services in local Japanese cities is high. In order for this demand to be met a substantial expansion of both nursing home care and in-home care services is required.