A descriptive study was conducted that compared the need satisfaction of older persons living in the community and those living in institutions. In the first article of a two-part series, the impact of environment on the satisfaction of needs was examined. Subjects included 20 community and 21 institutionalized older persons. Using Maslow’s need hierarchy as the theoretical framework, it was found that the community environment satisfied belongingness/love and esteem needs to a greater degree than the institutional environment. No difference was found in the satisfaction of physiological, safety, and self-actualization needs between the two environments. Race, mental status, and whether a community resident lived alone or with others were variables that influenced the results. The findings emphasized the complexity of need satisfaction and supported the formulation that environment is a crucial factor in need satisfaction. In the second article, the relationship between engagement in activity and need satisfaction will be explored.