The epidemiological health transition in Indonesia has lead to a substantial ageing of its population and a rapid increase in the prevalence of chronic progressive illnesses in advanced age that, in most cases, require some sort of care. This shift from ‘cure’ to ‘care’ necessitates new paradigms in both health-care delivery and research on older people in less-developed countries. Care involves both attitudes and practice, and is a dynamic interaction between giver and recipient. The vulnerability of frail older people is strongly related to the resources, capability and willingness of kin and non-kin to act as care-givers for extended periods. Normative filial piety and kinship obligations are no longer undisputed. This paper reports a study of the care and support received by chronically ill older people in urban areas of North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The majority rely on close family members, most often a wife or a daughter (or both), to provide treatment, care and support. The main care activities are support with ‘activities of daily living’ and therapies for specific illnesses. Care-givers experience manifold burdens when providing care for frail older people, and tend to reduce their support as the severity and duration of their relative's illness increases. It is shown that an older person's vulnerability to inadequate care provision, or its withdrawal, is associated with marital status and gender (unmarried women and widows being most at risk), poverty, weak support networks, and having care-givers who are themselves vulnerable.