BACKGROUND: To examine the relation between different aspects of social position and functional decline at 5 year follow-up in 75 year old men and women. METHODS: The study includes 606 non-disabled 75 year old participants living in Glostrup, Denmark. Functional ability was measured by the Mob-H Scale which measures need of help in six common mobility activities. Three outcome measures were used: a) functional decline, alive, b) functional decline, including death, and c) death. Measures of social position were vocational training, income and tenure. RESULTS: Income and tenure which reflect material wealth were related to functional decline and death in both men and women, but the patterns differed: housing tenure was related to functional decline and death among the men, while income was related to functional decline and death among the women. The associations were not attenuated when adjusted by behavioural factors. CONCLUSION: The results indicate that poor material wealth is associated with functional decline independent of behavioural factors in a selected population of non-disabled older adults. Thus, the cumulative influence of material wealth throughout the life-course cannot be avoided in old age just by a healthy behaviour once you have reached old age.